"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." -1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV
The applications are done. Class registration is done. Orientation is coming soon. The roommate is assigned. Ramen noodles have been stocked.
As part of their transition to adulthood, one of the ways to make sure your college-bound family member is set up for success is to make sure they know some key financial concepts.
You might think with studying, dorm life, and all manner of new things that your student might not need to worry about things like finances. Remember, there’s only a few short years before ideally your student will be in the working world and on their own. They’ll need to be savvy even before that though. College students are often preyed upon for things like credit cards or other financial products. Help them learn ahead of time so they’ll be prepared when these things come up.
What exactly does college cost?
The way students pay for the cost of college is as unique as each student. For most, it will be a combination of scholarships, family support, loans, or working during school. Very few students pay the costs that come up during a 4-year degree from just one source or method. Take some time to sit down with your student and help them understand the expenses that go along with their educational journey. You might be hesitant to do this for fear of putting extra pressure on them. They’re entering adulthood, they can handle it. They also need to understand how important their success is to you as a parent.
What is expected of your student vs. you?
Help your student understand who is responsible for what during their college journey. As an example, will tuition bills be sent to mom and dad? Do you expect your student to get a job while taking classes? Will you cover the cost of certain things while your student covers others? Make the delineation of responsibilities clear to help set them (and you) up for success.
What do you do if someone offers a credit card?
College students are ripe targets for products like credit cards. Help your student know how to respond when they are the recipient of an offer or aggressive marketing campaign for a shiny new card.
What are the rules of financial aid?
If your student has some sort of financial aid like a scholarship, help them learn the lay of the land. Does their financial aid have a GPA requirement? Are there other requirements like volunteer service or military service (ROTC)? Some scholarships are tied to specific fields which could be impacted by a change in major. Help them decode the fine print to keep financial aid on their side.
How do student loans work?
If your student has a student loan or is considering applying for one, talk this over carefully with them. Many students take on a student loan with either little understanding or misunderstanding the often-onerous terms. Help them tread carefully before making a decision that will affect them for years after school.
What happens in the summer?
When summer comes around, what do you expect of your student? Can they move back home? Are they expected to get a job or pursue summer classes? Talk about summer plans ahead of time so everyone is on the same page.
How to look for bad guys and scammers
College students are targeted by a host of scams. Talk with your student about how to look out for scammers. Do they know what to do if someone calls demanding money? Do they know how to spot a fake email demanding tuition payment? Remember, most scams are dependent on getting the target to act quickly and do something rash.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Something will probably go wrong during your student’s time in higher education. They might make a financial mistake. Are they expected to handle it themselves or can they call you for help? How much help are you willing to give? Let them know when it’s ok to call Mom or Dad.
"No man should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows." J. Robert Oppenheimer
You might be worried about your student’s welfare as they take big step into higher education. It’s OK to worry. This is your baby after all. Planning for what they should expect from you and from others will help set them up for success.
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