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Back to School

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There are a number of emotions involved with going back to school. Some are excited to see their old friends and make new ones. Others are happy to finally take classes they find interesting. Some are relieved to be one step closer to graduating. But most are curious about one thing: how will I get by this semester?

Planning for the semester can be a bit of a headache, but by December you’ll be glad you did. And as stress levels rise from the coursework, it will be a relief to at least to have your finances worked out in advance.

Firstly, make sure that you submit your FASFA (Free Application for Student Federal Aid). Even if it’s a bit late in the year, submitting your FASFA is always a good idea. Scholarship applications often require it, and FASFA can open up federal student loans for you (which are lot more beneficial than private student loans).

Secondly, enroll in a tuition payment plan if needed. The tuition payment plans are a great way to budget out tuition over the course of the semester and make the monthly payments easier and manageable for students. The earlier you sign up for a payment plan the smaller the monthly payments, so getting on top of it as soon as you can could make the financial commitments easier.

Thirdly think about your scholarships. Many students win scholarships that have a GPA requirement. If you know that you’re going to take rigorous classes this semester, plan to have a sustainable work life balance. Also remember to complete any requirements your scholarship may have such as submitting school transcripts, class schedules, placement exams. On the other side of the coin, plan to win scholarships. A lot of highly competitive scholarships require letters of recommendation. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your professors on the first week of school, especially those that teach in your major. This simple networking could lead to a lot of opportunities such as research positions internships, and fantastic letters of recommendation. Explore the scholarship opportunities your college offers, maybe joining a club could get you a stipend, or swapping out one class for another fits the requirements for scholarship. This also counts for internships, if there is a specific internship you want, maybe adjusting your classes to suit that internship, or planning to do projects outside of class to build your portfolio. Remember, that the U offers resources to help with writing, and resume building.

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Fourthly, create a budget. This step might be one of the most obvious steps, but creating a budget is an essential part of planning for the semester. Now that you know how much your tuition payments will be month to month it’s a good time to work out the rest of your expenses. Create a budget that fits you and that you are comfortable with, there is no need to overexert yourself nor deprive yourself of the things you value. With this consider the following tips:

- Packing lunches instead of buying them on campus

- Taking public transportation to avoid paying for gas or parking.

- Saving up to buy technology.

- Making interest payments to past student loans that way at graduation only the principal remains

- Save up for next semester.

- Create an emergency fund of 1-3 months of expenses.

- 50% needs 30% wants 20% savings

If you find this step overwhelming feel free to make an appointment with our office, and we can help you create a plan. Fall semester, Financial Wellness Center will be providing an online budgeting challenge. If you complete it you will earn a gift card and have a workable budget. Sign up here.

Fifth, keep track of important dates. Knowing your options helps you make better and more responsible decisions about your education and your finances. The last day to drop classes for the Fall 2023 is September 1st. This means a class would be removed from your schedule and you won’t have to pay tuition for it. Use the first couple weeks of school to gauge your ability to manage your classes, dropping a course early is better than paying for a failed class. The last day to withdraw from classes is October 20th. Withdrawing from a class means that you will still need to pay the tuition fees associated with that course, however your GPA will be spared. This is an option to consider if you need to meet a GPA requirement. However, remember that grad schools will still see the “W” on the transcript and talk with your academic advisors about what consequences dropping or withdrawing would have on your progress and goals. If out of all these dates if you could only put one on your calendar put October 1st. October 1st is the day that FASFA for the upcoming year opens. It’s recommended to file FASFA as early as you can to be considered for the most grants, scholarships, and opportunities.

lots of choices around a student's thoughts


Finally, the fun part: back to school shopping. Now that you have a plan for the school year, and have paid your tuition down payment, you should have a reasonable understanding of how much you can invest in supplies for school. Remember to shop around and compare different options. Buying used is a good option for books or technology. As a student there are a lot of discounts available to you, such as the campus store which sells tech at reduced educational prices without tax. Save the receipts for any expenses directly related to your education. These are tax deductible, and, in the spring, we can help you file these in your taxes.

At the end of the day, this is an exciting part of the year. New courses starting, meaning a lot of new adjustments and responsibilities, but new friends and opportunities. We at the Financial Wellness Center want to see you thrive. Feel free to make an appointment with us, and we can help you get into the specifics of your semester plan. 

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Last Updated: 12/12/23