Welcome to Know Before You Go! Throughout this week we will be exploring different topics to prepare you for your first year in college. We hope to help you navigate your college and set you up for success. Make sure you tune in all week long so you have the best tips at your disposable and feel confident about starting your freshman year.
Navigating any part of the college going process is not easy and figuring out Financial Aid once your on campus can be especially tricky. Today, we are going to offer some tips on how to manage your money in college, learning to budget, being mindful of borrowing and beginning to establish credit. We'll also help demystify some of the most important Financial Aid terminology you may come across now that you're in school and were to get support at your institution.
1. Complete your Master Promissory Note and Loan Entrance Counseling
If you are accepting any federal students loan you must complete your Master Promissory Note (MPN) in order to agree to the terms of the loan contract and before the funds can be disbursed to your institution. The MPN for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans is a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the U.S. Department of Education. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loan(s).
2. Familiarize yourself with the different buildings and staff on campus related to and which can impact your financial services.
Financial Aid Office - at many institutions this is where you can get help with FAFSA/PHEAA, students loans, institutional aid such as grants and scholarships, and view your financial aid. You can also appeal in person or inquire about what other sources of funding are available through your school. You will also receive guidance from this office on maintaining your financial aid. If you are a recipient of Last Dollar Scholarship this is the office which you will notify of this award and any other scholarships you receive.
Office of Student Accounts or Bursar's Office - is responsible for tuition assessment, billing of charges, accepting payments, payment plans, disbursing aid released from Financial Aid, processing deferment requests received, issuing refunds, collections management and more that is reflective on your student account/portal.
Registrar Office - assists you with your academic plan and is where the registration process begins. New student orientation, first year seminar, registering for classes, drop/add/withdraw, dispute grades, and academic probation are all housed here. If you are in jeopardy of losing financial aid due to unsatisfactory academic progress you will receive notice and can appeal from this office.
3. Bank Smart and open a checking account
Entering college you will have to be responsible for yourself and that means learning to manage your money. If you don't have one already, you should consider opening a checking and savings account that is accessible, has low fees, and offers discounts or bonuses to college students. It's important that you take into account location, access to ATMs, online app/portal, and policies on minimum daily balance, overdraft fees, and transfers. Many colleges and universities have a bank on campus which can be tied to your school account. It's important to have a checking account so that you can receive direct deposit if you work while in school and can accept your refund.
4. Budget, budget, budget & use an app
Keeping a monthly budget of what you earn and spend can help make you aware of where your money is going so you aren't left any money. There's tons of apps such as You Need A Budget (YNAB), Mint, Level, BUDGT, that can make budgeting fun, organized and easy to understand. Always budget for necessary items, like toiletries, school supplies or transportation. Stick with your budget.
5. Don't blow your refund check!
A refund is the amount of surplus financial aid you have left after tuition, fees and any other additional charges applied to your account have been withdrawn. Your refund usually appears within the first few weeks of each semester, and is dispersed in the form of a check. This is not free money and is a part of your loans. You can return the check to the Department of Education and lower your loan debt. You can also save the money in your school account for unexpected fees or payments you may need to make throughout the year. Becoming an adult means being able to handle your money and secure your bag. Be savvy. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Be wise with your refund check.
6. Beware of Credit Cards
Credit card offers are going to be flooding your mailbox but you have to smart about building and maintaining your credit. Don't accept all credit card offers, weigh your options, and don't spend more than you can afford. It is easy to go into debt with credit cards and you should aim to pay off your balance monthly.
7. Stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and CARES Act
While we are living in unprecedented times it is important to be informed on COVID-19 and how it may affect your semester. Your school should be posting updates on the website and announcements via a Coronavirus information center, the Office of Student Accounts or Bursar regarding changes to the semester, moving to all virtual classes, reopening/closing plans and refunds. It's important to note that you may be eligible for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds through the CARES Act. The money is for emergency financial aid or grants to students to cover basic needs such as food, housing, technology, health care and child care. For more information we encourage you to contact the Office of Financial Aid.
Here's more info and advice on Financial Aid from a prerecorded webinar with financial aid officer.
Remember, becoming an adult means acting responsibly and knowing when to ask for help. Take advantage of all the resources on campus and stay on top of your financial health. You've secured the bag now don't blow it.
Remember You're College Material and you will succeed!