tips my parents gave me on how to financially prepare for college, written by a college student

Are you feeling a little stressed about starting your first year of college? There is a lot to plan for financially when it comes to college but planning in advance can help reduce some of the stress. The summer before you leave for college is a critical time to start financial planning for your future. Here are some tips my parents gave me on how to financially prepare for college. 

Credit scores can range from 300 – 850 and are used to show how credit worthy you are. The higher the score, the more likely you are to be able to get a credit card or loan.

Start budgeting

While paying college tuition, there will be additional living expenses whether it is room and board or household bills. Aside from fixed bills there are also costs that will likely change monthly, such as food or entertainment costs. It is important to plan and budget to avoid going into debt. When budgeting it is important to identify essential vs. discretionary expenses.


You should be able to afford all your essential expenses and ideally also have enough to cover several months of essential expenses saved to cover emergencies. After determining your essential expenses, as well as how much you would like to save each month, you can determine how much of your budget is left that can be used on discretionary expenses –those things you can live without or can easily be canceled/removed from your budget… sorry Netflix.

Having a budgeting tool where you can get an overall view of your budget and spending all in one place, as well as looking for everyday ways to save, such as coupons or sales, is a great place to start. First Financial Bank’s Panorama is an easy to use tool within our online banking platform that can help you create a budget. Not only can you set a budget, but you can track spending and identify trends to help make your budget go farther.

Plan for college expenses

Before leaving for college, you should figure out how you are going to pay for tuition and other expenses with a financial plan. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before school begins. Your FAFSA is a starting point for planning your expenses. You may be offered financial aid which can help cover some of your college costs. You may also be offered federal student loans but think about your long-term plan to pay them off.

Get a summer job

It is important to take time for yourself before you leave for college, but it is also important to build an emergency fund. Use the summer before college to get a summer job and make money. Once you begin school, you will have unexpected expenses that come up and you may not have extra time for a job, so take advantage of the time you have during summer to make some extra cash.

Work on establishing your credit

Most students who graduate from high school have not established any credit history. Before you embark on your college journey you should think about building up your credit score. The first step is to see what your credit score is, which you can do once you are eighteen. You can request a free credit report from major credit bureaus such as Equifax.

Credit scores can range from 300 – 850 and it is used to shows how credit worthy you are. The higher the score, the more likely you are to be able to get a credit card or loan. 

Another important factor to building your credit history and improving your credit score is making sure you pay bills and credit cards on time. You can start by opening a credit card with a low credit limit and paying off the balance each month. Just be sure you can pay it off monthly as interest rates on credit cards can be high and leaving a balance will start to add up quickly.  

Apply for scholarships

Prior to and all throughout college you will want to search for scholarships to apply for. Put together a list of scholarship resources. The best place to start looking for scholarships is through your high school. Talk with your high school counselor about scholarships you might be eligible for. In addition, below are a few great sites to look for scholarships:

College is a big investment in your future so putting forth some time and effort to prepare for it will help ease the transition and allow you to get the most from the experience.


The information on this page is accurate as of January 2021 and is subject to change. First Financial Bank is not affiliated with any third-parties or third-party websites mentioned above. Any reference to any person, organization, activity, product, and/or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement. By clicking on a third-party link, you acknowledge you are leaving bankatfirst.com. First Financial Bank is not responsible for the content or security of any linked web page. Member FDIC / Equal Housing Lender.

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First Financial Bank is not affiliated with any third-party websites. Any reference to any person, organization, activity, product, and/or services does not constitute or imply an endorsement. First Financial Bank is not responsible for the content or security of any linked web page.