College Students and Credit Cards — Part 1

This is the first of a two-part series regarding college students and their use of credit cards.  This post attempts to give an overview of student credit card use by presenting some statistics taken from Sallie Mae’s National Study of Usage Rates and Trends of Undergraduate Student Credit Card Use released in April 2009.  In our next post, we’ll discuss how parents can help students think about their use of credit.

 Most college students use credit cards. Credit has become a part of the fabric of college life.  Many college students use credit cards out of necessity, and many college students use credit cards wisely, but college student debt is mounting.  Many parents of college students who are over 18 may not know whether their student has a credit card, or multiple credit cards, or whether their student is carrying a balance.

The following are some statistics which may give college parents pause to do some thinking about their student’s use of credit. These statistics were released in a recent study by Sallie Mae conducted in the spring of 2008, regarding college students and credit cards.  You may find some of these facts surprising.

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Ten Things To Do If You Need To Call Your Child’s College

As a college parent you’ve listened to all of the advice and you’re working hard to help your college student gain independence and responsibility.  You encourage her to handle her own problems and talk to the appropriate contact people at the college when she has questions or problems.  But something has come up and you feel that it is absolutely necessary for you to step in and talk to someone at the school.  What do you do now?

Here are ten things to consider that will make your phone call effective.

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College Parent? Inspiration for Your New Coaching Role

If you’re a new college parent, you’re shifting to a new role as a sideline coach: still involved in your student’s life and success, but with a new approach.  It’s time to get inspired about your new role!

Many of the world’s greatest athletes credit their success to the influence of their coaches.  They recognize that, while they may have certain abilities, they need the teaching, insight, and training that a quality coach can provide.    You may have thought of yourself in this role before –  or this may be a new image for you.  Either way, let’s explore some of the wisdom of the world’s greatest coaches and consider what it means to be a great coach.

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Your Role As a College Parent: Sideline Coach

As your child heads off to college, you are probably experiencing many emotions.  That is only natural.  It means that you recognize the enormity of the step that your child is taking.  Remember how it felt when he headed to kindergarten, or got behind the wheel of the car for the first time?  In many ways, this new phase is similar.

It is important to remember that this is a new stage for you as well as for your student.  As the parent of a college freshman, your role is changing in significant ways.  We’re often so busy focusing on our student that we forget that this is a transition for us as well.

Your coaching role

If your student is going to be living away from home, you know that your home-life will be different — more food, less laundry, more quiet, fewer dirty dishes.  You’ll no longer be in the middle of it all with the action swirling around you.

So you now have a choice.  You can feel lost and useless, or you can embrace your new role – as coach.  Like any good coach, there comes a time to step back and observe the results of your hard work.

No matter how important the ”big game” is, the coach is on the sidelines.  No matter how much he may want to, the coach can’t play the game for the players.  But if the coach has done his work in the pre-season, during all of those long practice hours, the players know what to do on the field.  As a parent, we need to know that we’ve done our ”pre-season” work.  We need to trust our student to get onto the field and play the game.

We also need to remember that the coach has a job to do on the sidelines of the game. The players need him there. The coach gives suggestions about plays, congratulates and supports, scolds, cajoles, and sometimes registers displeasure.  The coach is involved in the game, even though he’s not on the field.

And sometimes, the coach needs to take the player into the locker room and give him a talking to so the player will ”shape up” and play the rest of the game differently.

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Should My College Student Have a Car on Campus?

Cars.  Many of us spend a great deal of our time in them.  Our teenagers can’t wait until they can get their license and gain some independence.  Some surveys tell us that as many as 70% of college-age students own or have access to cars.  Cars have certainly become a part of the fabric of our lives.  But should they be part of the fabric of your college student’s life?  The answer is – it depends.

You and your student should think carefully about whether it is important for your student to have a car on campus.  Of course, it is possible that this may not be a decision that you will have to make during the first year.  More and more colleges are prohibiting first-year students from bringing cars to school.  Obviously, if your student is commuting to college then whether or not to have a car may not be an issue.  But many college families will need to give thought to the issue of whether or not to take a car to campus.

There are several reasons why many schools are telling their first-year students to leave their cars at home.

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What Is a College Articulation Agreement?

If your child is beginning college at a community college or other two year institution, you may hear college officials talk about having an Articulation Agreement with one or more four year institutions.  An Articulation Agreement is an officially approved agreement between two institutions, which allows a student to apply credits earned in specific programs at one institution toward advanced standing, entry or transfer into a specific program at the other institution.

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What Should My College Student Consider When Choosing a Schedule of Classes?

One very important task that each college student faces each semester is choosing his classes for the next semester.  It is exciting for students to consider the wide array of classes from which they may choose, but also intimidating to consider the implications of making the appropriate – or inappropriate choices.

As parents of college students, we may feel that we should have some input.  Discussing your college student’s class choices is always a good thing.  It will help you to understand your student’s interests and goals, and it may help your student to clarify his thinking as you talk about his decisions.  However, it is important to remember that it is your college student who will be taking the classes, and that he has, hopefully, made informed decisions in consultation with an Academic Advisor who understands college expectations and requirements.

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It’s Final Exam Time: What’s a College Parent To Do?

stressed man at computer

Sometimes, it may seem as though one of the most difficult positions for a college parent to be in, is the situation when you know that your student is struggling and you feel as though you cannot do a lot to help.  Sometimes final exam period may feel like one of those times.  You can’t take the exams for your child.  You may be too far away to help them study (and you probably shouldn’t be doing that at this point anyway).  You know that your student is stressed, and exhausted, and you must simply stand back.

Actually, you may not be completely helpless.   There are several ways in which you might help at this final exam time.

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The College Catalog: Source of Information for Parents of College Students

The College Catalog or Course Catalog is an inclusive source of much of the important information that college students need for a successful college career.  Each school’s catalog is different, but most contain the essential information for students.  Some schools still publish a “hard copy” of the catalog and some schools publish their catalog in digital format only.  Most schools have their catalog available on their websites.

Why should college parents be interested in the college catalog?

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Admissions Waitlist: Helping Your Student Cope with Limbo

Editor’s note: This post was updated in March 2017

The college application process is a stressful time for both students and their parents: making the list, college visits, narrowing down the choices, SAT or ACT exams, applications, essays, recommendations, and then — finally — your child may find that they have been put on the wait list for their first choice college. They have officially entered the limbo in which more and more students (perhaps as high as 10% of applicants) find themselves.  Your student is not in — but they haven’t exactly been rejected either.  It is rather like trying to fly standby — you don’t have a seat on the plane yet, but there is a chance that you might get one.

It is discouraging, but all may not be lost.  There are some things that your ”almost” college student should — and should not — do.

What is a wait list and how does it work?

First of all, understand the nature of a wait list.  Being placed on a wait list is not a rejection.  The college has said that your student is qualified for admission, but that the college does not currently have a space for them.

The wait list is a pool of qualified students from which the college will draw if accepted applicants choose to go somewhere else. Some students may actually be overqualified, and the school is waiting to see whether they are accepted and choose to attend a more selective school.  The college doesn’t want to waste a spot in their accepted student pool on someone they assume will probably attend another college.  Other students may be slightly underqualified and are given a ”courtesy” place on the waitlist as a softer form of rejection.  This may be especially true of students who are related to alumni or wealthy donors.

But most students on the waitlist are fully qualified to attend the school.  The waitlist becomes a safety net for the college if their ”yield” (number of accepted students who make a deposit) is low.  As students today apply to more and more colleges, the yield may become more unpredictable.

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