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Essential money tips for college

Essential money tips for college

Now that you’ve walked across that high school stage and are gearing up to attend college, you have a lot of money considerations to think about.

But just like when deciding what to bring to your new dorm room, we’re going to focus on the college essentials:

College supply list

Let’s start small and work our way up. The least daunting money essential you should be thinking about is getting all the items on your school supply list.

Chances are you’re going to need a laptop. But you don’t need the biggest, newest, or best laptop right now — you just need something reliable that will last for a few years.

Ask your soon-to-be professors and instructors what laptop they recommend. They’ll be able to give you the best guidance on if you need the latest MacBook or if something like a Chromebook or HP will do just fine.

For those of you planning to live in the dorms or your own apartment, you’ll probably need to furnish your new *temporary* home. Make sure to create a budget, starting with the absolute necessities and working your way down to the “wants,” so that you don’t overspend.

One of the need-to-haves for your supply list? A student checking account so that, in case you forget to bring an essential to college with you, you can make a withdrawal at the nearest ATM or possibly have mom and dad transfer money to your account to help you out.

Also, keep in mind that it’s better to buy less before you move; then, when you’re in your new dorm room and decide that you just have to have that fuzzy body pillow or gaming chair, you can always buy one later.

Lastly, remember that you will have to buy books for your classes, and they will be expensive. Always, always do comparison shopping when it comes to textbooks. You probably won’t pick most of them up ever again after you finish school, so rent as many books as you can or find a cheaper online version.

College scholarships

Earning a scholarship — no matter how big or small ­— is like earning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And earning multiple scholarships, well, that’s like earning multiple golden tickets!

Because the thing about scholarships is that they’re free money. Don’t tell us that you don’t like free stuff.

Our Branch Manager Kyle Aspaas knows a thing or two about scholarships; after all, his youngest child is a 2022 high school graduate himself.

“Think about it this way,” Kyle said. “If you take a $500 scholarship and put three hours into the application and an hour or two into writing an essay, you’ve got five hours into a $500 scholarship. That’s $100 an hour.”

When it comes to finding scholarships to apply for, Kyle recommends the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation’s scholarship resource. His other suggestions include seeing if any activities or organizations you’re involved in offer scholarships, talking to your future advisor, checking out the “Counselors” section on your high school’s website, and even just taking time to Google “scholarships.”

However you choose to look for them, don’t stop until you’re done with college because you can keep earning free money throughout your school years.

College tuition (duh)

Obviously, we’re going to mention tuition here; we were just saving it for last so we didn’t scare you away.

And yes, thinking about paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition can be scary, but there are ways to make it less so.

First, some schools are just more expensive than others (and some are way, way more expensive). Before you get your heart set on a school, make sure that you can afford it. Sometimes, the value of going to an in-state school is worth it if it has a good program for your intended field of study.

“When determining the value of a school, think about how much it matters where you go versus what you learn when you’re there,” Kyle said. “Some other things that add value include the student-teacher ratio of a school, the proximity of a school to your home, and the atmosphere of the town or city itself.”

Once you decide on a school — whether it’s your dream school or not — you need to determine how to best pay for your tuition. If you can work while you’re in school, consider doing that. And in some cases, it might be a good idea to take a year off and save up some money first.

“There are a lot of things people can do with a gap year, including bank a lot of money,” said best-selling author Bobbi Rebell on our podcast, Common Cents on the Prairie. “It’s easier to have the money in advance and never have the loan than to be paying back the loan while you’re living life as an independent adult.”

Backup plan

You may think that you have the next two to four years of your life planned out (or maybe you have nothing planned out, which is A-OK), but nothing about your future is guaranteed. That’s why Kyle suggests having a backup plan, whether that’s a financial one or otherwise.

“You always need options,” Kyle said. “You might get to school and realize it’s not the right fit or that you’re not quite ready. Maybe you’ll go to school farther away from home, and it won’t be quite what you’re expecting. You have to have the flexibility to make changes.”

If you do decide that college isn’t right for you and to enter the workforce instead, check out this blog. Or, reach out to Kyle for more tips on money-related college essentials!

Have questions? We're here to help.

Kyle Aspaas

Branch Manager

Jeremy Menning

Retail Banking Manager

Joanna Portice

Retail Banking Team Lead

Mark Peterson

Retail Team Lead
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