College can go so fast! Sometimes, we can fly right through college and not even be paying attention to the amount of money that we need to go through it because either our parents are in charge of the finances or it is hard to understand all the details that go into our own finances. When graduation does come, many students find themselves in a panic because they are now responsible for the management of their own lives largely impacted by their money management skills. Fortunately, there are some pretty good resources out there to help you start managing your own finances while you are in college. I will show you just a few of the ones I find to be most helpful as a college student.
To better understand your finances while in college, it is important to know what loans, scholarships, and grants have been or could be applied to your account. A good place to start is looking at your school portal. When looking at your school portal, there should be a link that says either ‘financial information’ and/or ‘financial aid.’ This is a very good place to start as you should be able to go into each semester to see financial aid that has been awarded to you both in the past and the upcoming semester/year.
Two additional good resources are websites that are commonly used in NEXUS one-on-one meetings when diagnosing what a student’s financial profile looks like. Those websites are www.studentaid.gov and https://nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA/. Both websites will require you to log in with your FSA ID, which is the login you would use to log into your FAFSA account. The first website (studentaid.gov) is a really good resource to get a broad understanding of the federal loans that you have. The second website (NSLDS.ed.gov) is a good resource that will show you specifically what loans you have through the federal government. Even if you don’t know a lot about loans or even what subsidized and unsubsidized are, this is a good place to start in order to know how much you owe if anything. This website should also show you the interest that has been added onto each of your loans to date.
Even doing this, you may not be able to see all of your loans. In some cases, students take private loans to pay for their schooling and these may not show up in those three places we just looked at. If you are not quite sure what loans you have, you might also look at www.creditkarma.com. Credit Karma should give you another broad overview of what your financial profile looks like.
Finally, another tool that the NEXUS coaches commonly use is the website www.annualcreditreport.com. This website should give a detailed list of credit cards, loans, medical debt, inquiries, private loans, mortgage loans, car loans, and more. Commonly people don’t want to look at their history because they are afraid of what they will see, but by looking at it, you can save yourself a lot of future troubles. When you look at it, you might find information that isn’t correct, whether that’s because of a reporting error or because someone stole information from you, or information of which you weren’t aware. Knowing is always better because it gives YOU the ability to plan and prepare.
Hopefully this blog has given you a good starting point to tackle your finances. Even if you don’t have full responsibility of your finances at this point, taking steps to learn is important. When looking into these resources, remember knowledge is always better than being in the dark and pleading after the fact that you didn’t know. Knowing where you are at financially when graduation comes gives you a huge advantage! Don’t miss out!