First-Year College Students Financial Checklist – Part II

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Last week, I began a discussion about the top 10 tips for college students.  If you’d like to review that column, go to the Resource Center at then click on ‘Stewart’s Column’.  Here are the remaining 5 tips:

  1. You’ll likely get bombarded with credit card offers in the mail.  Companies know that the students will use, and often abuse the cards only to eventually be bailed out by parents.  Having a credit card is a good idea because it helps you get a head start on establishing your credit history.  Just make sure you don’t establish a ‘bad history’ by misusing or abusing the cards.  Own no more than two cards and save them for emergencies unless you are certain that you can pay off the full balance each month.  As with the use of the ATM, be sure to keep a running balance of credit card charges.  The easiest way to do this is to enter ATM withdrawals and credit card charges directly into your check register as if you had written a check and then subtract the balance.  This will allow you to keep an up-to-the-minute record of your cash balance.  Responsible use of credit cards is a great way to begin to build a good credit history. 
  2. If you get funds from student loans, be sure to deposit the money in a money market account so that it is earning at least some interest.  Current interest rates are low but it still pays to shop around.  If you will not need a portion of your funds for several months, you may get a better yield by buying a certificate of deposit (CD) from a bank or credit union.  According to Steve Swofford, President and CEO of the Alabama Credit Union, “Credit unions in university communities generally provide the best deal for the student – no fees, better personal service, better rates on deposits and loans, less punitive overdraft policies. Credit unions often provide financial literacy training as well. In addition, many credit unions are in a nationwide branch network that enables the parents to make deposits to the student’s account back home – usually at no cost. Overall, a better deal at an institution that understands the student’s financial needs while in college”.  Another source for finding competitive rates is
  3. Identity theft is a multi-billion dollar business and you’ll want to make sure that you don’t become a victim.  The typical college students have roommates, suite mates and other students roaming through their housing.  Be sure to keep all of your passwords, bank account statements, and credit cards well guarded.  Also, be careful what information you list on the various social websites.  It’s best not to list your exact birth date and definitely guard your Social Security number with your life!  Never leave ATM statements behind and be aware of your surroundings when accessing cash from the ATM.  There have been cases where the next person in line used their video cell phone to steal a PIN number.
  4. Get a part-time job.  Even if you don’t need the money, this is still a good idea.  Start by speaking with your professors and department-heads.  I got a job as a grader during college and it proved to be a great experience allowing me to get to know my professor on a whole new level.  Having some extra spending money that I earned was also a nice benefit.
  5. Network with abandon.  Building relationships is just as important as getting a college education.  My advice is to “be a joiner” and active participant in as many organizations as time and interests allow.  Opportunities abound including student government association, academic clubs and social clubs.  The more people you connect with, the more enjoyable your college experience will be and that success will likely translate into financial success after college. 

Have a great college experience and make sure that you also learn about personal finance!  These lessons will serve you well your whole life.