Summer Before College a Summer of Decisions: Financial Decisions

This is the third of three posts about decisions new college students may face during the summer before freshman year. As a college parent, you can help your student consider some of these important issues.(Read the post about academic decisions here, and the post about student life decisions here.) This post looks at some financial decisions students may face.

Your student has been accepted to college and made the choice of which college to attend.  You’ve paid the deposit and your student is now happily, if somewhat nervously, connecting with new friends on Facebook as they prepare to head off to college at the end of the summer.  You may be feeling relief that the decisions are over and you can all settle in for the ride.

It may not be that easy.  The summer before freshman year of college is still a time of many decisions for both you and your soon-to-be college student.  Some of the decisions will be easy, some may have been discussed previously, and some may take you by surprise.

It is natural for both you and your student to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the number of things that you need to think about and prepare during this busy summer. But starting now, and making some decisions early, will help both you and your student feel more in control of this transition process. We hope that you and your student will think about some of these issues — and follow the links for further reading.

Financial decisions


  • As your student prepares to head off to college you may need to discuss the benefits of having a credit card or debit card.  Student credit card debt has become an alarming issue, and federal laws now require parents to co-sign for credit cards if students are under 21.  If you and your student feel that having a credit card is important, you will need to have some conversation about how to use credit wisely.  (Read more about students and credit cards.)
  • Your student will probably want to head off to school with a computer.  Perhaps they already have a computer, or perhaps this will be the time for a purchase.  There are many factors to consider as your student chooses a new computer.  They will want to get information from the school about technology expectations and support.  (Read more about computer decisions.)
  • You and your student will need to decide whether they will have a job at school.  Some students may receive Federal Work Study as part of their financial aid package, and other students may look for other jobs.  Your student should consider whether they will need a job, how many hours they will work, and how to balance all of their responsibilities.  (Read more about jobs at college.)
  • If your student has determined that they will need a job while at college, they may need to think about whether or not to work on campus or look for an off-campus job.  Obviously, this will depend on options available on campus and those available in the surrounding community.  There are benefits and disadvantages of both.  (Read more about working on/off campus.)
  • If you haven’t done so before now, it’s time for you and your student to discuss the importance of having a budget.  The college years are an important time for your student to gain experience keeping track of their expenses.  Even if you plan to send your student money regularly, encourage them to plan a budget and know where the money is going.  (Read more about student budgets here.)
  • It is possible that your college student may have unlimited funds and not need to worry about saving money in college.  It is more likely, however, that your student will need to watch those pennies in order to make ends meet during the college years.  Your student may need to make some decisions this summer about what choices they can make that will help save money and still be active and involved with friends.  Summer is a good time to make some money-saving lifestyle decisions.  (Read more about penny pinching here.)
  • The decision of whether to live on campus or off campus is certainly a life style choice, but it is also an important financial decision.  Before your student assumes that it is less expensive to live off campus, help them look carefully at all of the factors involved.  (Read more about living off campus here.)
  • Another life style decision that also becomes an important financial decision is whether or not to bring a car to campus.  Unless your student has significant distances to travel daily, bringing a car to campus will almost certainly add expenses.  Help your student consider carefully whether having a car at school makes financial sense.  (Read more about whether or not to have a car here.)
  • Where and how your student buys or rents her college textbooks can make a significant financial difference.  Buying books new from the college bookstore is certainly the most convenient, but also the most expensive choice.  If your student plans to use other sources for books, getting an early start is important.  Help your student think about textbook options.  (Read more about textbook options here.)

As your student prepares to head off to college, they have several important decisions to make that will affect experiences during the freshman year.  As a college parent, this may be a good time to remind yourself that these decisions will need to be your student’s, since they will need to live with the consequences.  Your student will still need your input and advice, but try to let your student make the final decisions.  This may be the first of many, many opportunities you will have in the next few years to coach your student from the sidelines.


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