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Advising a College Freshman

For most incoming students, the freshman year began in late August or early September. You have embarked on a new journey.

Some of you are in a classroom setting, while others are online as the pandemic injects uncertainty into your college experience. Flexibility is paramount.

For the first time, some of you will be away from home for an extended period. You’ll have to adjust to a new schedule, make new friends, share a dorm room with a roommate, and juggle your extracurriculars and newfound freedom with your academic responsibilities. 

Some will thrive in the new environment, and others will struggle. It’s an adjustment every new college student must deal with. I highly encourage you to take advantage of the resources on campus that support new students. When you make mistakes (and you will; I sure did), learn from them.

With that in mind, let’s look at six ideas that will get you started on the right path. Even if you have not gone away to college, these principles can be adapted to those starting out in adult life.

  • You’ll need a budget. What is your income? How much money do you have in savings? What might your expenditures be? Outflows shouldn’t exceed inflows. You can guestimate your expenses, but you won’t know how much you spend until you begin tracking your monthly outlays.

Don’t spend all your income. It’s never too soon to start saving money. Over time, you’ll develop good habits, and you’ll graduate with cash in the bank.

  •  Speaking of cash in the bank, open a savings and checking account. With the guidance of others, one way to learn life’s lessons is by doing. At regular intervals, log into your account and make sure the transactions are yours. In today’s digital world, identity theft is a risk.  

Finally, it almost goes without saying, never give anyone your online passwords. EVER. Some young folks share passwords as a sign of friendship or affection. It’s better to buy someone an inexpensive gift or get them a friendly card rather than giving them the keys to your financial kingdom.

  • Get a job. The pickings may be slimmer this year due to the virus, but try and get some part-time work if you can.   Having a job that allows you to study is ideal, such as something in your dorm or the library. You’ll not only earn extra cash, but the job will force you to take responsibility, and you’ll learn to better manage your time.

Counterintuitively, the more tasks I had when I was in school, the better my grades and overall outcomes. Too much time can create procrastination, the enemy of the college student.

There are plenty of options for students, but flexibility is the key, as you’ll need to work around your class schedule. Remember, you are in college to get educated.

Having a credit card comes with responsibility. Use it sparingly, pay if off every month, and pay if off on time. The moment you carry a balance, steep interest charges will kick in.

Know what you are signing up for, know the terms, and avoid cash advances. Quick cash is expensive.

By responsibly using a credit card, you’ll build up a good credit rating, but let me emphasize one more time that credit cards require responsibility on your part.

  • Build a professional online profile. You are already familiar with Instagram and Facebook, and many other social media platforms. But I recommend getting on LinkedIn.

When you graduate, you should have hundreds of connections within your field of study, including students and professors. If you intern, “link into” your co-workers and your supervisor. When you meet young professionals at company-sponsored recruiting events, grab business cards, link into them, and include a short note with your invitation.

Highlight any experience and skills that potential companies will want to see. 

Be sure to join professional groups within your areas of interest. You’ll not only benefit from the connections in your network, you’ll find it immensely satisfying to assist others who may need support.

Recruiters that review your LinkedIn profile will be impressed with the initiative you took while still in college.

  •  Carefully choose your electives and include a class on personal finance. There’s much to learn about budgeting, insurance, debt management, taxes, savings, and housing.

You’ll not only discover many practical tips, but what you learn will stay with you long after you leave college.

Have a fantastic school year and don't forget to vote!

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