My financial worries as a college freshman

January 7, 2016
Sara Clagett

First year college students have a lot on their minds before heading off to school. Some of the biggest worries are living on their own for the first time, adjusting to new classes, getting good grades, joining clubs, and meeting new people.

A few months ago, I started my freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University studying chemistry on a pre-med track. For me, a big worry was money. I wasn’t sure if I would have enough and I had no clue how expensive everything would be. Luckily, I earned an academic scholarship and my family was able to pay my college tuition and housing. Over the summer, I earned money by working as an intern for Geezeo studying millennials and their banking habits. A couple of weeks before school started, my parents and I discussed my monthly budget. My dad recommended I download an app called Cash and he tested it out by sending me $20. Awesome! We agreed on a number for my monthly budget, and I was feeling satisfied.

Fast forward to the first month of school… Early on into the semester, I was worrying about maintaining good grades, making new friends, and most importantly, trying not to spend my monthly allowance. I had the first two on that list checked off, but I was struggling to not spend all my money. For example, textbooks are ridiculously expensive. I scoured the internet for inexpensive textbooks and found Amazon had $40 textbook rentals. Perfect! I also had to manage how much money I spent on food. I gave myself a certain amount of money to spend on groceries/restaurants per month. I go out for brunch the first Sunday of every month with my friends, and that’s typically one of the only times I eat in a restaurant (besides my meal plan options). I make sure to save my receipts to keep tabs on how much I spend and if I can reduce any costs. In high school I would do a lot of online shopping, but since I started college, I limited my spending. I only buy things I need, rather than things I want.

My worries about money increased when my wallet was stolen a few weeks into the school year. I lost everything. My cash, debit card, and ID were all missing. Since that happened, I don’t carry any cash on me. My friends told me they don’t carry cash either. When I first opened my checking account in high school, my parents taught me about online banking. The bank I use, Union Bank and Trust, has a fantastic app that makes mobile banking so easy. I make sure to check my checking account balance on the mobile app a few times a week, just to make sure everything is correct. Luckily, the bank I go to has a branch near campus in Richmond. They were so helpful with helping me get my life back together.

Another common worry of college freshmen involves future employment opportunities. I’ve seen multiple articles online saying how college graduates are having a hard time finding jobs. I made sure to pick a major that I was interested in, but also one where I could easily get a well-paying job. I’ve already started looking at paid internships at different hospitals and multiple shadowing options. For me, getting a head start on my future helps eliminate any stress I have over money. My goal in the future is to go to medical school in the city and become a dermatologist.

I learned so many things about money my first semester of college; saving is better than spending, keep your money secure at all times, plan for the future, and make sure to treat yourself once in a while. Looking back, I’m happy I had worries about money. I’m also happy that my parents answered all of my questions and helped me when I needed it. Learning these lessons while I’m in college has definitely laid a foundation for me to have a positive relationship with money in my future.

What have been some of your worries or lessons learned about money when you were in college?

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