With the increasing cost of a college education, students find themselves in precarious fiscal situations. What complicates these financial problems are class workloads, the desire of many students to become more financially and personally independent from their parents and the distance from their homes and support network.
Establishing a Budget
College students find themselves having to establish a personal budget, sometimes for the first time. The budget must calculate how much the student earns against how much she spends in a month. Expenses range from textbooks and meals to things like dues for organizations, fraternities or sororities and luxuries such as spring break trips. Earnings include savings, stipends given by the college and work pay. Budgets help prioritize your needs but might not prevent you from having to eat Ramen noodles for the last week of every month.
Balancing School and Work
Many students find that taking a part-time or full-time job is necessary. Because a student's workload can mean more than 40 hours of classes, homework, study and other responsibilities, striking a balance between work and school is challenging. Both working and attending school full-time can result in burnout, leaving the student exhausted and incapable of doing either well. The college experience should be fun and intellectually stimulating, too, so an imbalance here might ruin the experience.
Student loans are available in two main forms: subsidized and unsubsidized. The former means payment and interest are deferred beyond your school years and any graduate education you undertake. The latter, unsubsidized loans, immediately begin accruing interest and are virtually no different than personal loans. Alternately, some states offer scholarships that have certain requirements attached to them, such as the William Winter scholarship loan program, which offers scholarships for Mississippi education students that are converted to loans if the student does not become a schoolteacher in that state.
Scholarships are the gold standard of financial aid, and many students are overjoyed to discover they've earned one. But they sometimes have tricky realities. While some scholarships do not have any stipulations, others require the maintenance of a certain grade-point average or involvement in extracurricular activities. The dependence on the funds from these kinds of scholarships with their stipulations can make meeting your academic responsibilities difficult.
Changes in Financial Aid
A student's financial aid situation can change annually or monthly. When you or your family's annual earnings go up, you may no longer qualify for Pell Grants, for example, or other aid. If it goes down, you might be awarded some of this aid. Being aware of due dates for the college's fees and your own loans can prevent costly late fees. Working with your financial aid counselors can maximize the aid you receive while preventing problems with paperwork.