Taking Responsibility for Your College Finances, Part I
Deciding what you should major in and where to study it is hard enough, but when you throw in the question of how to finance this great adventure, everything gets a lot trickier! Thankfully, figuring out your financial process is a lot simpler if you lay all the pieces out so that you can see them and know what to look for.
Taking stock of your resources, tangible and intangible
Write down everything you can actually pay toward a school bill and anything that you will need for college and already have. This would include listing the following:
Your average take-home income from every week
This can be a little difficult if you don’t have a regular paycheck to figure by, but you can probably approximate what you make babysitting, mowing the neighbor’s lawn, or doing other odd jobs. Even if you make just enough for some spending money every week, write it down.
Have you been setting some money aside to buy your first car? Write it down. Is there money in your bank account, unspoken for by other bills? Write it down. Everything is “savings” until you spend it.
Have your parents been stockpiling for you over the years? Do they intend to make a regular payment on your school bill? Maybe Grandma has volunteered to pay for your first semester or year? Write it down. These monetary gifts from your family members or close family friends are just that—gifts. Include the amounts in your resource total and remember to thank the givers for their loving sacrifice.
Do you have a serviceable laptop for taking notes in class and writing papers? Do you have a personal printer? Do you have all the bedding and towels you will need? Will you be taking things like toiletries and laundry detergent from home or buying them when you get to school? You may not need to include some of these things if you’re planning on living at home throughout college, but make sure to write down everything else that you may need, but already have.
If you have already been promised certain scholarships, you can include them here. If you’re planning on searching and hoping that you will be able to find some, then they don’t belong on this list yet. However, your qualifications for scholarships do fit into the following category.
This is a more nebulous category of resources but one worth including all the same. You may want to collaborate on this one with a parent or wise friend who knows you well. This is where you would list qualifications that will help you “make it” financially in your school of choice. They could include the following:
Do you like to write? Are you an artist? An athlete? Mathematician? Do you work with horses? Do you have minority bloodlines? Where do you live? Do you participate in 4H? Have any special hobbies or talents? Have you done any volunteer work? What program have you decided to study—are you going into the medical field, becoming a teacher, or studying law? What school are you attending? All of these factors and many others may increase your eligibility for scholarships. Even if you think it’s totally random, write it down—people win scholarships for lots of things, even bowling!
Have you held any jobs that have given you experience other employers would be interested in? List these strengths. They may be as generic as “pays close attention to detail” or pertain to specific skills—“extensive experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.”
You can include on this list things like the ability to balance a demanding schedule (helpful if you choose to work while you’re in college), having relatives in town who are willing to let you stay with them rent-free, or you plan to bring your own vehicle so that you can work off campus.
Note: This list will help you tally up your personal resources. But God’s leading and provision for you must be the foundation of your equation. If college is truly His will for your life, He will provide for you as He sees fit and your needs require, even when there doesn’t seem to be a way.