Life Skills That Can Help You Save Money

Life Skills That Can Help You Save Money

With rising inflation and stagnant wages, being frugal with your spending is a good idea. But you can go a step further: By learning some valuable life skills and DIY-ing more activities, you can save money.

Mastering skills like cooking, cleaning, riding a bike, and doing your own taxes mean you don’t have to pay professionals for expensive services. While it can be time-consuming, harnessing new skills can make you more independent, help you keep more of your money, and maybe even inspire a few new hobbies.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 20 basic money-saving skills that almost everyone can learn. They can be fun to dig into, build confidence, and free up funds to put towards your financial goals.

How Life Skills Are Essential to Your Financial Freedom

Life is built on financial transactions. We pay for food at the restaurant, spend money on a haircut, reach deep into our wallets at the gas station, and shell out for repairs when something in our home breaks.

While we can’t possibly learn enough life skills to replace all these transactions, it is possible to take up a few new savings skills, like cooking, painting, and sewing, so that you can hoard a little more money each month.

That little bit of money adds up — honing several life skills can be an important step toward your financial freedom. The money you save can go towards your emergency fund, paying down student loan debt faster, or gathering the down payment on a house.

20 Life Skills That Can Help You Save Money

So which life skills are worth learning? We’ve rounded up 20 of the top money-saving skills that, when mastered, can help you avoid spending your cash on basic goods and services. They’ll help put you on the path to becoming financially disciplined.

1. Cooking

Eating out now and then is perfectly fine — a well-deserved reward after a long week at the office or a celebratory dinner for a major milestone. But eating out for lunch or dinner every day can be unhealthy (those portion sizes!) and can get quite expensive. Learning the basics of cooking can keep you out of the pricey restaurants and in your own kitchen instead.

Cooking can require an investment in the proper cookware and staple ingredients, but overall is bound to be cheaper than getting food to go or at an eatery. Just think about the price difference between avocado toast whipped up in your kitchen and what you’d pay at a cute cafe. Search for recipes online, and follow tips to save money on food before you head out to the grocery.

2. Painting

Ready to pick up a paintbrush and unlock another savings skill? According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend more than $3,000 on average to paint the exterior of their home, and renters and homeowners alike might pay painters even more to paint the interior. The current rate typically runs from $2 to $6 per square foot.

While painting the exterior of your home can be a little more challenging, painting the interior is not complicated at all. If you are willing to take the time to learn, you can save yourself thousands of dollars every time you want to change up the inside of your living space.

3. Gardening

Yes, professional landscapers can weave a certain kind of magic. But doing your own gardening can be a tremendously satisfying and creative pursuit, not to mention that it can save you a lot of moolah. Spending time learning the basics about what zone you live in and which plants will thrive, plus wandering around nurseries and garden centers, can provide plenty of inspiration.

You can grow fresh produce for the small price of starter seeds and the occasional watering, which means less money spent at the grocery store.

What’s more, when selling your house, landscaping is an important part of curb appeal. A well-cared-for garden might attract potential buyers and help your home sell more quickly.

Recommended: How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?

4. Plumbing

Plumbing emergencies like a flooded basement or a broken water heater are probably still better left to a licensed contractor, but teaching yourself to be handy with a wrench and a screwdriver might save you on smaller problems, like a leaky faucet or a running toilet.

This money-saving skill can serve you well over the years. Calling a plumber for every small problem that your house encounters over the years can add up. In fact, most plumbers charge $45 to $200 an hour and may charge a flat rate of $350 just for a service call.

Beyond plumbing, you can teach yourself basic electrical and carpentry skills so that you can tackle some easy home improvement projects for beginners.

5. Budgeting

Knowing how to make a budget — and sticking to it — is a crucial life skill. When you are able to analyze your monthly expenses against your monthly income in an easy-to-read format, you can quickly discover which spending habits you need to scale back. Many people like the 50/30/20 rule, which spells out that you should spend 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% should be put towards wants, and 20% should go into savings.

And you don’t even need to pay for fancy budgeting software. Many online banking platforms make it easy to see all of your transactions in one place, and you can use a simple spreadsheet to design a budget that works for you.

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning up to up to 3.25% APY on your cash!


6. Haggling

Not every price is negotiable, but when it is, it’s important to know how to haggle with confidence. While you might immediately think of haggling at a used car lot (and that’s a great place to do it), you can also haggle over things like your monthly cell phone bill, your rent, and even credit card interest rates. Politely asking, “Is there any flexibility on the price?” may yield a surprising positive response.

Even if you’re only successful in lowering one expense, that’s money in your wallet that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.

Recommended: How to Negotiate Medical Bills

7. Sewing

You might not ever create your own clothes from scratch (though you certainly can!), but knowing how to sew can come in handy when you get a rip in your favorite shirt or a parka’s zipper starts to detach. Instead of throwing out clothes with holes or lost buttons, sew them back together. Mending the torn back pocket on your favorite jeans, for instance, and you’ll save yourself from dropping $50 or much more on a new pair.

8. Cutting Your Family’s Hair

Haircuts at chain salons are certainly not cheap, often ranging from $30 to $70+, but boutique salons are even more expensive. Learning to cut your family’s hair (or your own, if you’re brave) can cut out one monthly expense. Check out the tutorials on YouTube and other video platforms and see if you can’t hone your skills.

9. Investing

While the stock market may not be performing wonderfully right at this moment, the average stock market return over the last 10 years has been nearly 15%. And though you can certainly pay a traditional broker to manage your portfolio, it’s totally possible to do it yourself.

In fact, there are many platforms for investing to choose among, some of which enable automated investing, and fractional shares. Plus, you can build your financial know-how by reading blogs and books on investing, as well as listening to podcasts or taking an online class to sharpen your skills.

10. Changing Your Car’s Oil

According to KBB, the average oil change costs from $65 to $125 (for synthetic oil), but the actual cost of the synthetic oil and filter replacement is just $45. Being able to change your car’s oil by yourself (typically twice a year, depending on how much you drive) can mean you pocket an extra $20 to $80 every time. It’s a great life skill to learn and then stash the cash you save, year after year.

11. Cutting Firewood

If you have ample trees in your yard — or a generous neighbor has just taken down a tree and doesn’t mind sharing the spoils — you can chop the wood yourself for an outdoor firepit or your fireplace. If your home has a fireplace, you can use that wood to heat a single room while leaving the heater setting lower in the rest of your home, cutting down on your utility bill.

12. Doing Your Own Taxes

If you have a complicated tax situation, an accountant might be a good investment, especially if they can help you maximize your credits and tax deductions even if you’re a student. However, if you have a straightforward income and financial situation, it might be beneficial to skip the accountant fees and file by yourself.

Check out the IRS Free File hub to find programs that will help you do it all by yourself.

13. Bartering

The time-honored tradition of bartering, or trading goods and services, can help you lower your expenses. Let’s say there’s a spinning class you love that’s beyond your budget. Could you offer to swap your digital savvy (say, filming videos and posting on social media for the studio) in exchange for no-cost sessions? Think creatively about the skills you have and how you might use them to get some freebies. It never hurts to ask about such arrangements, and it could help.

14. Roasting Your Own Coffee

Buying a latte at a coffee shop every morning may be convenient (and relaxing), but it also gets expensive. If you spend $5 every day on a cup of coffee, that’s more than $1,800 a year. Instead, learn how to save on coffee expenses. Brew coffee at home — and better yet, learn how to grind and roast your own coffee beans for maximum savings. You’ll find that whole beans are typically less pricey than pre-ground ones at the supermarket.

15. Baking

Going to the bakery when you said you’d bring a dessert to your family’s holiday get-together may be convenient, but buying fresh cakes and cookies can get expensive. Baking can be a little more challenging than cooking, but it’s certainly a great way to save money. And it can be a wonderful creative pursuit and a new pastime. Need inspiration? Just watch any of the addictive shows on TV, like The Great British Baking Show.

16. Upcycling

Upcycling is a buzzword for reusing an item instead of buying something totally new. For example, you might use reclaimed wood or an old door to make a desk or table, turn a sweater with torn elbows into a vest, or use old towels as cleaning rags for a while before tossing them. Upcycling can help you save on common expenses, and it’s great for the environment; less goes into the trash.

17. Cleaning

Most people probably don’t like to clean, but it’s a big part of being an adult. Whether it’s scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming the rug, or wiping down kitchen counters, these are chores that just need to be done.

It might be tempting to pay for a cleaning service, but doing so is expensive. Cleaning professionals typically charge $30 to $50 per hour — or more than $600 for a large home over 3,000 square feet.

Don’t give into that temptation to farm it out. Grab a rag (or an upcycled towel), a bottle of cleaning solution, and a monthly house maintenance checklist. You’ve got this!

18. Riding a Bike

Gas is expensive (and you probably know its impact on the environment). While you probably can’t bike everywhere you need to go, each trip on a bike you make — to work, to school, or just to a friend’s house — means you won’t be spending money on gas or bus fare.

19. Hosting

Hanging out with friends at your favorite bar is nice, but a fun night out adds up quickly when you do it every weekend. Instead, host your next friend or family gathering at your own home. Stock some wine, cold beer, and snacks, and you’re good to go. (You can be next-level and make a pitcher of a signature cocktail; it’s a fun way to build your mixology skills.)

Or switch things over to a morning meet-up with a pot of coffee and some home-made muffins. You’re likely to save big.

20. Doing It Yourself

Our final life skill ties all the rest together: Do things yourself instead of paying someone else to do them. If you don’t know how to do something, research online or find someone who does and learn. Once you’ve mastered the skill, share your knowledge with others.

Whether mowing your lawn, washing windows, or doing yoga or Pilates at home, you can really open up room in your budget when you DIY.

Banking With SoFi

Honing these valuable money-saving skills is a great way to establish financial freedom, and having a quality bank account will elevate your efforts. A SoFi bank account can do just that: It allows you to spend and save in one convenient place. When you open one with direct deposit, you’ll earn a terrific APY and pay no fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.

See how SoFi can help you bank smarter with our combination of convenience, high interest rates, and no fees.

FAQ

Is saving money a life skill?

Saving money is an important life skill. By learning to do various tasks yourself around the house and in your daily life, you can avoid paying for a lot of expensive goods and services. Also, being a smart consumer and comparison-shopping will help you save money. This is especially important when making a big purchase; look around for the best price, coupons, and other discounts.

How do I find the time to develop these life skills?

Most of these life skills can fit into your regular day. If you normally spend a couple of hours going out to dinner, you can instead spend that time finding a recipe and trying to cook it at home. You may also find that some of these tasks (cooking, gardening) become hobbies in which you happily invest time.

What is the most valuable life skill?

Learning to do things yourself, from cooking to filing taxes to changing your car’s oil, can be the most valuable life skill. This can give you confidence, know-how, and self-reliance, plus it requires you to be curious and willing to educate yourself, all of which are important traits.


Photo credit: iStock/blackCAT

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SOBK0722038

Read more
Guide to Student Loan Certification

Guide to Student Loan Certification

After getting approved for a student loan, there is one more step that must be completed before your funds are disbursed: the loan certification process. This step is designed to protect you as a borrower.

Keep reading to find out more about student loan certification, how long it takes, and the process for federal and private student loans.

What Is Student Loan Certification?

Student loan certification is a mandatory step before loan funds can be sent to your school. Your school will verify enrollment details, such as your expected graduation date, your year in the program, and the loan amount.

For private student loans, a Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form is required. This highlights borrower-protection language, informs you of your ability to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and explains how a private loan might affect your other financial aid awards. The self-certification step also provides your lender with your enrollment details and financial aid received.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Why Do Lenders Need Student Loan Certification?

Student loan lenders must secure a certification before disbursement because it’s required by law, under the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Truth in Lending Act.

Certification ensures that the lender and your school have done their due diligence to inform you about federal financial aid options, confirm that you meet academic enrollment requirements for the loan, and disclose the difference between your school’s cost of attendance (COA) and the financial assistance you’ve received for that period.

Recommended: The Ultimate Student Loan Terminology Cheat Sheet

Do Federal and Private Student Loan Lenders Need the Same Certification?

No, the loan certification process is different for federal vs. private student loans.

For federal aid, your school is responsible for determining the type of student aid you’re eligible for, including federal student loans. If your school finds that you’re eligible for federal loans, it will record its certification of your eligibility into the Common Origination and Disbursement system. This system tracks your loan data throughout your academic career.

The loan certification process for private lenders has a different intent. Your lender can request a completed Self-Certification form from you, which includes a section for your institution to fill out. Alternatively, your lender can communicate directly with your school for its certification sign-off.

Here’s a helpful refresher on how student loans work.

What Is the Process of Student Loan Certification?

After a lender approves your loan application and you accept the loan and its terms, the student loan certification process is automatically initiated. As a student borrower, you may not need to do anything. However, make sure to follow the process, via any emails or notifications from your lender or school, to make sure everything runs smoothly and no additional information is needed from you.

1. Lender Sends Loan Details to the School

The lender forwards your loan information to your school for certification. This includes details you’ve submitted during your application, like your personal information, enrollment information, and the loan amount requested.

2. School Reviews Loan Details

During this step, your school will certify that your enrollment details are correct, the estimated COA for the enrollment period, and how much aid you are receiving during the period.

Private student loan amounts can’t exceed a student’s COA, minus existing financial aid. If your loan details are correct and the amount is within the unfunded COA gap, the school can certify your loan with no changes.

Alternatively, the school can certify your loan with changes, either to reduce the loan amount or correct your enrollment information, if needed. It can also deny the loan certification, which might happen if it can’t verify that you’re enrolled or you already have sufficient financial aid to cover your COA.

Recommended: How To Apply for Student Loans

3. Your Lender Provides a Final Loan Disclosure

Your lender will notify you when your student loan certification is complete. At this time, it will provide you and your student loan cosigner, if applicable, with the final loan disclosure.

If your loan amount was lowered by your school, this is where you’ll see the new amount outlined in the updated disclosure agreement.

4. “Right-to-Cancel” Waiting Period

After the borrower has signed the final loan disclosure, lenders are not allowed to disburse funds right away. Federal law requires a waiting period of three business days after the lender sends you the final disclosure.

This is another layer of borrower protection that gives you time to cancel the loan, if desired, with no penalty.

5. Lender Disburses Loan Funds

After the waiting period expires, the lender can send certified student loan disbursements directly to your school, on the date requested by your institution.

How long school certification takes for a loan varies by school. Generally, it can take up to five weeks for schools to complete student loan certification, but sometimes it’s longer.

Additionally, loan certification is often done in the weeks before the start of classes. Enrollment status can change at the last minute, as when a student drops out or reduces their course load. The timing helps schools process certifications based on the most current information.

Is There Anything Student Borrowers Can Do to Hurry Along the Certification Process?

It’s true that the loan certification process can be lengthy. But there’s not much that can be done to hasten it. The best that student borrowers can do is to stay on top of emails and account notifications from their lender, informing them of status updates and next steps.

What Happens if a School Doesn’t Certify That You Are a Student?

If your school doesn’t certify your enrollment status, your lender can’t legally disburse the loan funds to your school. At best, this results in payment delays as you sort things out with your financial aid office. At worst, it halts disbursement entirely, if your school can’t certify that you are, in fact, an enrolled student.

What to Do if It Is the School’s Error

If you believe a mistake has been made on your student loan certification, contact your financial aid department immediately. Find out what the school needs from you to certify your enrollment and loan.

Additionally, ask what will happen to your enrolled courses while you figure out a resolution. The last thing you want is to get dropped from your classes.

What to Do if It Is the Student’s Error

Student loan certification might be in limbo because of an oversight on your part. This can come up, for example, if you forget to enroll in classes.

If you’re in this situation, reach out to your school’s admissions and records department, or your degree program’s department, for guidance about what you need to do. Make sure to note that you are waiting on private student loan certification needed for disbursement.

The Takeaway

The loan certification process can feel like another hurdle to overcome in financing your education. However, it’s a step that’s meant to protect student borrowers and keep you aware of your rights. The process and intent of certification are different for private student loans and federal student loans. If you do not get certified, don’t panic. Discuss the issue with your school to find out if the error is yours or the school’s, and take immediate steps to resolve it.

If you’ve exhausted your aid options and need additional funds to pay for school, consider a SoFi private student loan. Eligible borrowers can borrow up to their school’s cost of attendance, and there are no fees at all. Checking your interest rate online takes just minutes.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SOPS0322025

Read more
50 Charities to Support This Year

41 Charities to Support This Year

When the going gets tough, the tough get giving. Or that’s what the latest data on philanthropy reveals. Despite the recent pandemic and intense inflation, Americans are donating more to charities. In 2021, the amount ticked up a sizable 4% over the past year, to a hefty $484.85 billion in funds.

If you’re among the ranks of those who want to contribute funds to support a cause you believe in or help those less fortunate, it can be hard to know where to give. Is a charity legitimate? How much of your funds will really be put to work? This is an important question to answer when deciding where to allocate funds (and possibly get a nice tax deduction, too).

What constitutes a good organization to donate to may vary depending on how much you’re donating; if you want to give money, time or other donations; and which causes are close to your heart. As a rule of thumb, though, it’s smart to research any organization you plan to support.

In order to help you do that, here’s a guide to some of the top-rated charities according to CharityWatch, an independent watchdog organization founded in 1993. CharityWatch specializes in reviewing and ranking charities based on their financial reporting, including their:

•   Audited financial statements

•   Tax forms

•   Annual reports

•   State filings

Methodology: Ranking the Best Charities to Support

The list that follows is culled from CharityWatch’s list of top charities, selected from those charities with an A or A+ ranking.

CharityWatch ranks charities based on the following calculations:

•   Program Percentage: The percent of total expenses the charity spends on charitable programming (as opposed to expenses such as fundraising, management, and operations).

•   Cost to Raise $100: How much it costs a charity to bring in $100 in cash donations from the public. Ideally, this is a low figure to do the most good with the money received.

CharityWatch then assigns charities a letter grade, ranging from A+ to F. CharityWatch’s full methodology for ranking top charities to donate to can be found online.

Of the hundreds of charities the organization has ranked, typically only a few dozen are straight-A or higher. (Worth noting: CharityWatch updates rankings regularly, which is why we’ve linked to their rankings for each of the following organizations. Each charity’s website is then linked on each of CharityWatch’s rating pages. By clicking the links, you can get the latest intel on a given organization.)

If you’re looking for inspiration about where to give, read on.

Which Charities to Support This Year

Whether you want your donations to help children, animals, educational causes, or almost anything else, here is a list to give you a headstart. It highlights (alphabetically) some of the top-rated charities according to CharityWatch.

1. Action Against Hunger-USA

Program Percentage: 90%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

Action Against Hunger-USA ‘s mission statement is to prevent, detect, and treat under-nutrition. The organization aims to tackle the underlying causes of hunger, and they also help regions experiencing conflict or natural disasters meet their nutritional needs.

2. All Hands and Hearts

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

Concerned about the “crazy weather” you see so often on the news these days? All Hands and Hearts aims to address short- and long-term needs of communities after natural disasters. This includes helping rebuild homes, schools, and infrastructure.

3. American Kidney Fund

Program Percentage: 98%

Cost to Raise $100: $2

American Kidney Fund helps those suffering from kidney disease during every step of the process. That includes prevention, early detection, disease management, and post-transplant. The organization provides those in need with financial support and other resources they need to manage their kidney disease.

4. Asia Foundation

Program Percentage: 86%

Cost to Raise $100: $1

Asia Foundation focuses on improving lives throughout Asia, including improving environmental resilience and empowering women.

5. Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Program Percentage: 81%

Cost to Raise $100: $10

You may know the grim statistic that almost 13% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation has earned an A for its efforts to prevent and cure breast cancer by funding promising research globally. It has raised $569.4 million to support clinical and translational research on the disease.

6. Catholic Relief Services

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $8

Catholic Relief Services assists the poor in the U.S. and across the globe. Its goal is to prevent and end poverty regardless of the races, religions, or nationalities of those in need.

7. Center for Community Change Action

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $2

By contributing to the Center for Community Change Action , you’ll help improve material conditions for people struggling to make ends meet in the United States. Through voter engagement and policy change, the Center works to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially those of color.

8. Child Find of America

Program Percentage: 89%

Cost to Raise $100: $1

Child Find of America aims to both prevent child abductions and find abducted children. Part of that work involves responding to the family conflicts and crises that may lead to potential abduction or abuse.

9. Comic Relief

Program Percentage: 80%

Cost to Raise $100: $14

Who doesn’t love to laugh? And doing good via humor is doubly nice. Comic Relief uses entertainment to eliminate poverty, improve children’s lives, and help disadvantaged individuals around the world. The organization is well known for its Red Nose Day fundraiser, in which people can buy a red clown nose to raise money to help end child poverty.

10. Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS)

Program Percentage: 90%

Cost to Raise $100: $7

Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) helps families and coworkers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The organization provides them with resources to help rebuild their lives after enduring the loss, and it also provides training to law enforcement on how to help surviving co-workers and families.

11. Conservation Fund

Program Percentage: 95%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

If you consider yourself eco-minded, take a look at the Conservation Fund . It helps protect America’s land and water resources with the help of public, private, and nonprofit partner organizations. The fund also helps educate the public about sustainability, resource management, and creating environmental goals for individuals, communities, or organizations.

12. Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation

Program Percentage: 89%

Cost to Raise $100: $2

If diabetes has touched your life, you might want to donate to the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation . Its mission is to prevent and treat diabetes, which impacts one out of every 10 (or 37+ million) Americans. It helps fund new research to help cure diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses and complications.

13. DonorsChoose.org

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

DonorsChoose.org aims to help raise awareness about accountability issues and educational inequality in public schools. It seeks to create a world in which all American children have equal access to high-quality education by engaging the public in educational issues and reform.

14. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $9

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation ’s mission is to prevent pediatric HIV infections. Through education, research, advocacy, and treatment, the organization aims to help end pediatric AIDS. The organization also stresses that progress against AIDS has been unequally distributed, with marginalized groups being hit hardest.

15. Environmental Defense Action Fund

Program Percentage: 90%

Cost to Raise $100: $15

If you care about the state of our planet and its future, consider The Environmental Defense Action Fund . It seeks to educate the public about the environment and conservation. The organization also advocates for legislation and policies it believes will protect the environment.

16. Fisher House Foundation

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

The Fisher House Foundation creates and furnishes “Fisher Houses” for military and veteran families to stay at while a loved one is in the hospital. The organization also provides further financial assistance and scholarships to military families.

17. Friends of Animals

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

Are you a fan of furbabies? Perhaps Friends of Animals would be a good place for your donations. It aims to help animals experiencing cruelty or institutional exploitation. They put money towards funding and creating litigation for no-free shelters, protecting wild animals’ ability to roam freely, and more.

18. Government Accountability Project (GAP)

Program Percentage: 82%

Cost to Raise $100: $9

Are you motivated to help ensure that whistleblowers can be heard and navigate the path ahead of them? Take a look at the Government Accountability Project . It’s a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to protecting government whistleblowers at every step of the way, at federal, state, and local levels, to ensure that justice is served.

19. Guide Dog for the Blind

Program Percentage: 80%

Cost to Raise $100: $9

Here’s a charity that helps those with vision issues by giving them trusty companions. For 75 years, the Guide Dog Foundation has trained and placed guide dogs and service dogs. These animals help provide increased independence and enhanced mobility to people who are blind, have low vision, or other disabilities.

20. Hearing Health Foundation

Program Percentage: 88%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

Here’s a shocking statistic: One out of eight Americans age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears. If you’d like your charitable donation to go towards remedying that, consider Hearing Health Foundation . It works to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus. It also hopes to develop a cure for both by supporting research and hearing health education.

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning 1% APY on your cash!


21. Hispanic Federation

Program Percentage: 88%

Cost to Raise $100: $5

Hispanic Federation is a Latino nonprofit organization aiming to advocate and advance Hispanic communities and families. It provides communities with a variety of services and resources for education, health, immigration, civil engagement, economic empowerment, and more.

22. Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Program Percentage: 92%

Cost to Raise $100: $1

Looking for another angle on uplifting the Hispanic community? The Hispanic Scholarship Fund provides scholarships and student services to help Hispanic students prepare for and earn their college degree. The organization provides students with support services and other resources they need to not only make it into the college classroom, but also to succeed in college and after graduation.

23. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

Program Percentage: 92%

Cost to Raise $100: $5

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund helps military members who have traumatic brain injuries or PTSD. The organization provides them access to treatment centers to assist them in continuing to serve or enjoying life post-service.

24. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Program Percentage: 85%

Cost to Raise $100: $15

Multiple myeloma is a kind of cancer that develops in the plasma cells, a kind of white blood cell. An estimated $34,000+ new cases are diagnosed annually, and more than 12,000 Americans die from the disease in a given year. Want to be part of the search for a cure? Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation seeks to invest in research and education to find a cure for multiple myeloma. The organization also helps fund innovative new ways to treat myeloma and extend the lives of those affected by it.

25. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Program Percentage: 90%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

Many areas of America have seen an uptick in homelessness since the start of the pandemic. A donation to the National Alliance to End Homelessness could help. The organization aims to prevent and end U.S. homelessness, educating the public on the causes of homelessness and potential solutions.

26. National Council on Aging

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $18

If you want to put your dollars to work on behalf of our elders, The National Council on Aging could be a good recipient. The organization seeks to help older Americans who may be struggling financially, physically, mentally, or experiencing other issues. It also educates caregivers and advocates on how best to serve the elder community.

27. National Park Trust

Program Percentage: 87%

Cost to Raise $100: $11

Have you enjoyed the beauty of our national parks? Then perhaps you’d like to make a donation to (and get a tax deduction) via the National Park Trust . It protects and preserves park lands and trains the next generation of park stewards, aiming to increase both their numbers and diversity.

28. National Wildlife Federation

Program Percentage: 88%

Cost to Raise $100: $6

Love creatures, great and small? Perhaps you’d like to contribute to the efforts of the National Wildlife Federation . It’s the United States’ largest private, nonprofit conservation education and advocacy organization, with over six million members and supporters. It works to protect our wildlife, including endangered species, and the land they live on.

29. Pathfinder International

Program Percentage: 86%

Cost to Raise $100: $6

If sexual and reproductive rights matter to you, take a closer look at Pathfinder International . It works to ensure that everyone around the world has the right to a healthy sexual and reproductive life. During COVID-19, the organization is also helping vulnerable communities survive the crisis.

30. PetSmart Charities

Program Percentage: 95%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

Want to have your contribution help pets find their forever homes? PetSmart Charities helps pets find life-long homes. The organization hosts adoption events and centers, as well educational and training programs to help humans learn how to support pets in need.

31. Population Services International

Program Percentage: 92%

Cost to Raise $100: $1

Are you globally minded? Population Services International provides those in developing countries with products and services to plan families and lead healthier lives. The organization also creates programming to help address gender-related health issues, including violence against women and women’s access to health services.

32. Ronald McDonald House Charities (National Office)

Program Percentage: 88%

Cost to Raise $100: $9

Ronald McDonald House Charities (National Office) has 380+ locations that provide a comfortable, caring place for families to stay near children who are undergoing medical treatment far from home.

33. Scholarship America

Program Percentage: 94%

Cost to Raise $100: $2

Give the next generation a leg up on their studies. Scholarship America helps American students make it into college classrooms through scholarships and educational support. The organization also provides mentorship to students and emergency grants for students at risk of dropping out for various reasons.

34. Semper Fi & America’s Fund

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

If you want to make a donation to help those who’ve served our country, consider Semper Fi & America’s
Fund
. It helps combat-wounded, critically ill, or catastrophically injured veterans and their families with financial, family, and wellness support programs. The program also helps veterans transition back into their communities after a serious combat-related injury.

35. Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

Does the phrase “Never forget” resonate for you regarding 9/11, as it does for many Americans? If so, look into contributing to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation , which seeks to honor fallen firefighter Stephen Siller, who died on duty on September 11, 2001. The organization helps the families of fallen firefighters and police officers pay off mortgages, among other programs.

36. Trevor Project

Program Percentage: 84%

Cost to Raise $100: $6

For those who want to support the LGBTQ+ community, a good recipient for charitable donations could be the Trevor Project . It is the world’s largest mental health and suicide prevention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people. It’s goal is to create a more inclusive world.

37. Unbound

Program Percentage: 93%

Cost to Raise $100: $4

Here’s a way your contribution can uplift those in need: Unbound partners with families living in poverty to help them become self-sufficient and reach their full potential. The organization works with those experiencing poverty in 19 countries using Catholic theology to foster family and community relationship-building and self-empowerment.

38. United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

Program Percentage: 98%

Cost to Raise $100: $3

Another faith-driven organization to note: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) aims to alleviate human suffering around the world caused by conflicts, war, natural disasters, and other causes of suffering. The organization has helped with refugee resettlement and other humanitarian missions.

39. Waterkeeper Alliance

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $7

Make a donation that protects our precious natural resources. Waterkeeper Alliance creates a network of global leaders to help protect peoples’ rights to clean water around the globe. The organization also has several campaigns to promote clean and safe energy, clean water, and to battle pollution caused by industrial meat farms, among other causes.

40. World Central Kitchen

Program Percentage: 98%

Cost to Raise $100: $1

If you care about fighting hunger, perhaps you want to think about donating to World Central Kitchen . Their mission is WCK to provide meals when climate, community, and humanitarian crises hit. They also work to build resilient food systems.

41. World Resources Institute

Program Percentage: 91%

Cost to Raise $100: $0

Looking for other environmentally focused charities? World Resources Institute aims to help people learn how to live in ways that better protect the environment for current and future generations. It educates the public on ways to make cities, energy, food, and businesses more environmentally friendly.

Making a Difference With Your Finances

Budgeting for charitable donations can be a good way to ensure your money helps the causes you care about. It can also benefit your finances if you receive a tax deduction for your donation. You could use that deduction to invest, reach your savings goals, contribute more to your retirement, or build up your emergency fund.

Recommended: How to Make End of Year Donations

3 Money Tips

  1. Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts will pay you a bit and help your money grow. Online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.
  2. An emergency fund or rainy day fund is an important financial safety net. Aim to have at least three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses saved in case you get a major unexpected bill or lose income.
  3. If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.
Better banking is here with up to 3.25% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Photo credit: iStock/busracavus

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SOBK1022025

Read more
woman with graduation cap

Finding & Applying to Scholarships for Grad School

Scholarships can be a helpful resource to pay for grad school. The tricky part can be tracking the right scholarship down and applying. Scholarships are available through many different avenues, including states, organizations, nonprofits, companies, and more.

Grants and scholarships are similar in that they’re both gift aid you don’t typically have to repay after graduation. The main difference is that scholarships are typically merit-based, while grants are need-based.

Let’s look at some common scholarships and grants for prospective graduate students.

Federal and state governments offer a variety of grants and scholarships for graduate students. While scholarships and grants are similar in that they are often considered “gift aid,” many grants can come with need-based stipulations.

When applying for any scholarship or grant, it’s important to read the fine print to make sure to qualify and can hold up your end of the bargain if you are indeed awarded the money. Here are a few common options for graduate students.

State Scholarships & Grants

To find scholarships and grants at the state level, you can try contacting your state’s Department of Education for assistance and resources. Scholarships and grants vary state by state.

Federal Scholarships & Grants

Some federal grants, including the Pell Grant, are only available for undergraduate school programs.

For example, graduate students do not qualify for Pell grants, except for post-baccalaureate certification programs. Again, paying close attention to the qualifications for a grant before applying is crucial.

To apply for federal grants and scholarships, students will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student aid, or FAFSA® each year.There are several types of federal grants available:

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

TEACH grants are available to graduate students at participating universities. This is a federal grant awarded to students who intend to teach in high-need fields, including bilingual education, foreign language, special needs, reading specialist, mathematics, and science, as well as any other field the government considers high-need.

The grant offers up to $4,000 a year for students who intend to teach after their studies. To apply, fill out the FAFSA and read the government’s requirements carefully. You must take certain types of classes, and you have to accept a specific kind of job after graduation, otherwise, the grant will turn into a loan you have to pay back.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

This federal grant is for graduate students with a parent who died serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The grant amount is the same as the maximum amount of a Federal Pell Grant award for that year, which was $6,895 for the 2022-2023 school year. Apply via the FAFSA.

Fulbright Grants

The US Department of Education provides Fulbright Grants for graduate students to study and research in designated countries abroad.

When you visit the Fulbright website, click on your country of interest to view the details. For example, in Germany, there are 75 study/research grants available, the program lasts for 10 months, and its recommended participants speak German at the beginner level. In Iceland, there are only three grants available, the program lasts nine months, and there is no foreign language requirement.

Finding Additional Federal Grants

There are even more grants offered by other federal institutions and departments. For a comprehensive search, take a look through Grants.gov or the U.S. Department of Labor’s database. On these sites, students can specify their search by things like their program, field of study, or other qualifiers.

Private Graduate Scholarships & Grants

When it comes to finding money for grad school, there are plenty of organizations, companies, and nonprofits that offer scholarship opportunities. The scholarships could be merit-based, need-based, or simply granted based on your affiliation or application.

Some scholarships are on the smaller side, others much larger, but any amount of aid can help. You may want to consider these elements while you’re on the hunt for private scholarships for graduate school:

Your College or University

Your school might offer merit-based scholarship or grant opportunities. Possible action item: connecting with your department, as well as the office of financial aid to see if you qualify for some scholarship from the school and what additional steps you may need to take to apply.

Your Course of Study

You may be able to find scholarships related to your field of study. Possible action item: searching national foundations, or even companies that might provide a scholarship. This might be especially helpful in STEM fields, or other careers where there’s a high need for employees in the workforce.

Your Neighborhood

Are you involved in any community organizations? Possible action item: seeing if your religious organizations, local civic groups, and other community organizations you belong to offer scholarships. You could reach out to see what may be available and perhaps complete the necessary applications.

Your Background

Based on your ethnicity or cultural heritage, you may be able to qualify for several grants. Possible action item: reaching out to national foundations or local community groups to see what they offer.

Some specific private scholarships and grants include:

Greek Life Scholarships

Contrary to what society may think, enrolling in a fraternity, sorority, or other Greek organization has more benefits than the wild parties. Many Greek organizations reward their high-achieving members and alumni who pursue master’s degrees.

For example, members of Alpha Chi Rho could receive up to $3,500 for their graduate studies.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Truman Scholarship is for students who want to make a difference in society. If you’re pursuing a degree such as Master of Public Administration, Master of Education, or Master of Social Work, and you have significant community service experience, you could qualify for the Truman Scholarship.

To apply, you must be a junior in college or third-year students with senior standing. Between 55 and 65 students receive the Truman Scholarship per year, each receiving $30,000.

Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Scholarships

GFOA Scholarships are for graduate students intending to pursue a career in state or local finance. The association offers five types of scholarships to eight to 11 students.

The five kinds of graduate school scholarships are as follows:

•   The Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship for full-time students. Award amount is $20,000.

•   The Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship for full-time accounting students. Award amount is $10,000.

•   The Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship for part- or full-time minority students. Award amount is $10,000.

•   The Government Finance Professional Development Scholarship for part-time students. Award amount is $10,000.

•   The Jeffrey L. Esser Career Development Scholarship for part-time students who have already worked in state or local finance for at least three years. Scholarship amounts range from $5,000 to $15,000.

NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship

The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship is for athletes who have attended an NCAA member institution for their undergraduate studies. Students must be in their final year of undergraduate athletics to apply.

The distribution of graduate school scholarships is unique. Three times per year (autumn, winter, spring) the NCAA gives scholarships to 21 men and 21 women per each sports season, for a total of 126 scholarships per year. This timeline splits up candidates based on the sports they play. Each scholarship is $10,000.

American Association of University Women

This is an example of a grant offered by a private organization rather than the federal government. The grant is specifically for women, and you must have received your most recent degree before June 30, 2013, to qualify.

The Career Development Grant recipients will receive between $2,000 and $12,000 for graduate school.

The Geological Society of America Grant

If you’re going into geological research, joining the Geological Society of America (GSA) and applying for their
Graduate Student Research Grant may open up some opportunities. The GSA awarded 360 students money in 2020, with over 50% of students receiving aid. The average grant amount was over $1,820.

These are only a few avenues to consider when looking for private graduate school scholarships. Databases and search engines can help, but don’t be afraid to get creative.

Fellowships

Unlike a grant or scholarship, fellowships are money typically tied to an opportunity. Those who get a fellowship, likely have to meet requirements to study, research, or work in a field for a short period. Not only will fellowships help students pay for graduate school, but they can also be a valuable opportunity to gain relevant experience.

Finding a fellowship will be specific to your field of study. One place to start your search process is by talking to your academic department for assistance, or finding a nonprofit institution specializing in your field of study. Applicants should be aware that fellowships typically require a fairly rigorous application process.

How to Qualify for Graduate School scholarships

Each graduate school scholarship may have different criteria, so be sure to read the requirements for each application and scholarship carefully.

Types of Graduate Student Scholarships Available

As already outlined, graduate school scholarships are available through the federal government, your school, or through other local corporations or nonprofits.

Where to Find Scholarships for Graduate Students

When looking for scholarships for grad school, fill out the FAFSA as the first step. Just like undergraduates, the FAFSA is required for graduate students interested in federal student aid, including scholarships, grants, and student loans. Some schools may also use the FAFSA to determine aid awards.

From there, you can check in with your school’s financial aid office. They may have more information on the scholarship opportunities and requirements available at your school.

Community organizations can be another source of scholarships. Some career or professional organizations may also offer scholarships.

When to Apply for Graduate School Scholarships

Fill out the FAFSA as early as possible. Some aid may be awarded on a first-come first-served basis, so completing the application early could potentially improve your chances of qualifying for some aid.

For private scholarships, be sure to track all relevant deadlines. Scholarships may have their own deadlines, it may help to put together a spreadsheet so you can see a high level overview of important deadlines and application requirements.

Factors to Consider When Applying for Graduate School Scholarships

Applying for scholarships is a time commitment, but it may be time well spent if you can secure money to help pay for your graduate school program. Consider the following factors when applying to graduate school scholarships:

Eligibility Requirements

Review eligibility requirements closely. Do you need to be enrolled in a specific school or program of study? Be sure you understand and meet the eligibility requirements so you don’t waste time applying for grad school scholarships you aren’t actually eligible for.

Application Requirements

Some applications may require an essay and letters of recommendation. Think carefully about who you want to ask to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Be mindful of deadlines and ask with enough advance notice to give them enough time to write a letter.

Deadlines

Each scholarship may have its own deadlines. Track these closely. Many scholarships won’t accept late submissions.

Some scholarships may go unclaimed when the school year starts. Consider checking in with your financial aid office to see if there are any unclaimed scholarship funds available. For more information on appealing for these awards, take a look at SoFi’s guide to unclaimed scholarships.

Using Student Loans to Cover Grad School

Scholarships and grants aren’t the only options for paying for graduate school. You may also choose to take out student loans.

After you receive grants and scholarships, it’s possible to fill in the gaps with financial aid for graduate school. Consider focusing on scholarships and grants before student loans. You don’t have to repay scholarships and grants when you graduate or even if you leave school before finishing. Student loans on the other hand will have to be paid back. If you’re applying for federal or private loans, it’s worth noting that the process is different from applying for undergraduate loans. You can borrow more as a graduate student, but you might be looking at higher interest rates.

As a graduate student, you may qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan through the US Department of Education. To qualify, you must be enrolled at least half-time and not have an adverse credit history.

If you don’t receive enough financial aid through a Direct PLUS Loan or want to search for other loan options, another option is to try researching private student loans. Rather than being provided by the government, these loans come from private businesses, banks, and colleges. Students should focus on private student loans as a last resort, as private student loans lack the borrower protections afforded to federal student loans. Check out more information in SoFi’s private student loan guide.

Alternative Funding for Graduate School

Other than taking on student loans, there are several alternatives to funding your graduate degree. If you’re able to work while attending school, you can save and budget to cover a portion or all of your tuition.

If you are working, you can speak with your employer to see if they offer a tuition reimbursement program.
Employee tuition reimbursement might require you to stay at the company for a number of years, or pursue a specific degree. Program requirements will vary by company.

If you do decide that taking out a private student loan is right for you, check out SoFi. SoFi offers no-fee private student loans to help you pay for school. SoFi makes the process simple — so paying for school may be less stressful.

The Takeaway

There are a wide array of grants and scholarships available for students pursuing graduate school. These include those offered by federal and state governments, individual schools, and other interest groups like nonprofit organizations. To find grants and scholarships, students can review online databases, speak with the financial aid office at their school, and fill out the FAFSA each year.

SoFi offers graduate school loans with competitive interest rates. See what options you could qualify for in just a few minutes.

FAQ

How do I get a full scholarship to graduate school?

It’s possible to get a scholarship that will pay for all of your graduate school costs. It can be very competitive to qualify for full-ride scholarships, so it may help to complete an application and make sure you meet all requirements. If an essay is required, be sure to allocate enough time for writing and editing to be sure you are submitting a strong application. Some schools may offer full-ride scholarships to the top students.

What scholarships are available for graduate students?

There are a variety of scholarships available for graduate students including federal and state scholarships, school-specific scholarships, and scholarships from private companies and nonprofit organizations.

Do master’s programs give scholarships?

Yes, master’s programs may offer scholarships. A master’s program is one type of graduate school program.

Are scholarships available for graduate school?

Yes, scholarships are available for graduate school. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid if you are interested in federal scholarships or grants. Check in with your school’s financial aid office for more resources.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOPS0722001

Read more
students in classroom

11 Ways to Prepare for High School Graduation

Making it to high school graduation is a big deal. For most people, it’s taken 13 years of education since starting in kindergarten.

This is a time to celebrate, but also to start planning for the next step into adulthood. Taking care of the practical stuff now can allow more time to enjoy your senior year and relax before moving on to the next big thing.

To help get you started, check out these tips to close out high school on a high note and prepare for summer and beyond.

Preparing for High School Graduation

1. Keeping Up Your Grades

You’re almost across the finish line. Yet, slacking off and letting grades slip could be a red flag for the college you plan on attending in the fall.

The extent to which colleges look at senior year grades varies. If an A in calculus drops to a B, that’s probably not a cause for alarm. Rather, having grades fall below a college’s admissions standards could run the risk of a rescinded offer. Staying on top of your coursework and taking some challenging classes your senior year could pay off in the fall.

2. Ordering Your Cap and Gown

To attend high school graduation, you’ll likely have to look the part. If you have an older sibling or friend who graduated before you and is around your size, you can kindly ask to borrow their cap and gown, assuming it’ll match your classmates’ at graduation.

Renting a cap and gown could save money if that option is offered at your high school. Rentals may require a deposit and will likely need to be returned right after the ceremony to discourage graduates from walking off with them amid all the excitement.

If you go the rental route, you may still need to purchase a tassel unique to your graduating class.
Traditionally, there is a moment during the ceremony when graduates are asked to flip their tassel from one side of their cap to the other, which signifies graduation.

3. Return Library Books

At many high schools, failing to return library books, or pay any accrued late fees could make you ineligible to walk at graduation. If there are any other fees or outstanding holds that will prevent you from walking at graduation, take care of them as soon as possible. Your guidance counselor or another administrator at the school may be able to help if you’re not sure.

4. Picking a Graduation-Day Outfit

Yes, you will be wearing your cap and gown for the ceremony. But what about photos afterward? Pick an outfit that is both stylish and one you feel comfortable in. There’ll likely be a lot of photos to celebrate this accomplishment, and wearing an outfit you feel your best in can help make you feel good in front of the camera.

5. Reserving Tickets for Graduation

Some schools may limit the number of tickets a student can reserve for graduation due to venue capacity. In some cases, students may be able request additional tickets, but they are not always guaranteed. If your school has a ticket limit or request process, stay on top of deadlines.

6. Inviting Family and Friends to Graduation

Once you know how many tickets you have to your graduation, you’ll need to invite family or friends to the ceremony. Parents, siblings, grandparents, or close friends may all want to come watch, but if there are ticket restrictions, you may be limited in who you can invite.

Consider sending the information for the ceremony including date, time, location, and any parking instructions in writing via email or text so your family members can easily reference relevant details to see you walk across that stage.

7. Taking Photos with Friends and Family

Graduating high school is a major accomplishment. This is a day you’ll want to remember and you’ll want to get photos with family and friends on the big day. Scope out some meaningful locations for a few photos. If you run hurdles, perhaps you want some photos out on the school track.

8. Registering for Dorm Room Necessities

If you’re expecting gifts from family and friends in honor of your graduation, consider registering for dorm room necessities like towels, twin-XL sheets, duvet, or a mini-fridge. Letting your family know what you want and need for the next four years could make it easier for them to purchase something you’ll actually use.

9. Celebrating With Friends and Family

High school graduates have passed numerous milestones from kindergarten to senior year. Besides the homework and exams, many high schoolers have put countless hours into varsity sports, drama club, marching band, or other extracurricular activities.

High school graduation is a well-deserved moment to have fun and celebrate the culmination of these accomplishments. Whether you’re moving away for college or commuting from home, your schedule may change significantly.

Spending time with family and friends, attending senior activities, and throwing a graduation party are some ways to honor the occasion and process the transition.

10. Plan Your Graduation Party (If You’re Hosting One)

Graduation parties are popular for high schoolers (and their families). If you — or your parents — are hosting a party you’ll want to determine details like the date, time, and location, budget for the event, and guest list.

You’ll want to invite guests and track RSVPs so you can get an accurate headcount for food and drink at the event. From there, you can look into decorations and any party rentals (like chairs, flatware, plates, table cloths, and more).

11. Writing Thank You Notes

As you receive graduation gifts, keep a log of who sent each gift. Show your gratitude for thoughtful gifts by writing a thank you note to each sender. Express your thanks for the gift, and mention a couple specific details about the item they sent and how you plan to use it. Close out your thank you with a thoughtful note about when you hope to see them next (or how great it was to see them at your graduation party) and thank them once again.

Generally, it’s best to send your thank you notes soon after receiving the gifts, so staying organized as you approach graduation can be helpful.

12. Landing a Summer Job

Between hanging out with friends and going on family trips, you might have time to take on a part-time or full-time summer job. These experiences can help boost your resume and gain references for internships and jobs down the road.

Additionally, putting in some hours now can further pad your college savings for tuition and living expenses. If all goes well, you may be invited back to work next summer.

13. Managing Your Schedule and Setting Goals

College schedules can be a big adjustment for students. Instead of following a strict bell schedule like most high schools have, college students are responsible for managing their own schedules with little oversight.

Each college course’s credit hours usually indicate how many hours that class meets per week. Full-time students typically take between 12 and 18 credit hours each semester, which translates to roughly the same number of hours in class. This means college students have more flexibility than high school students in planning their schedule for completing homework and other assignments. That flexibility also means more responsibility for their own time management.

Students might consider preparing for this adjustment by trying out a few planning systems — e.g., paper, digital, or a combination of both — to see what works best for them so they’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the fall.

Some things to plan for, other than class schedules, might be a summer job schedule, family vacations, summer parties with friends, or savings goals.

14. Cleaning up Your Social Media Presence

High school can feel like a bubble. Some students have known each other since elementary school.

Upon graduating and leaving this familiar environment, graduates will encounter an influx of new friends, coworkers, employers, and professors. To put your best foot forward in these scenarios, it could be worth revisiting your social media posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Many people have said or posted things online they aren’t proud of or no longer reflect their current opinions on a subject. Checking to see what posts you’re tagged in, too, can help refine your online presence and give peace of mind as you head into the “real world.”

In serious cases, colleges have rescinded students’ admission for inappropriate and offensive conduct on social media.

Preparing for College

While finishing senior year and taking care of high school graduation, getting ready for college is just around the corner. There are plenty of ways to prepare for college before the fall semester rolls around. Let’s take a look at some of the key things you may want to consider.

1. Creating a Plan to Pay for College

Pay for college often requires students to pull together a few different types of funding. In addition to savings or using your grad money to pay for college expenses, students can also rely on financial aid including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and work-study.

Typically, college-bound high school seniors will fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) in February. This form is the first step in applying for federal student aid, which can include scholarships, grants, and loans, depending on a student’s eligibility.

Students who are looking to fill gaps in funding may consider private student loans — which are offered by private lenders and lack benefits offered to federal student loans, like deferment or forgiveness options. Check out SoFi’s guide to private student loans for more information.

2. Researching Classes and Majors

Generally speaking, most programs do not require incoming freshmen to declare a major right away. Still, taking some time before registration to learn about different majors and general course requirements can help students figure out what they want to study, create a balanced schedule, and graduate on time.

3. Getting Ready to Move Away From Home

Students planning to attend college away from home may be feeling a mix of excitement and stress about moving.

Putting that energy into planning for college living arrangements might alleviate some of those feelings.

If coordinating with roommates ahead of time is a possibility, students might consider splitting up the list of room necessities — one roomie can bring the microwave and another can bring the mini-fridge. If the college provides those things, there are many other items that can make the transition from home to college dorm easier.

The Takeaway

Graduating from high school is a huge accomplishment. As you approach graduation day, make sure you have met graduation requirements and have no holds on your student account that will prevent you from walking. Get ready for the big day by ordering your cap and gown, picking your grad day outfit, reserving tickets for the ceremony, and planning a celebration with friends and family.

3 Student Loan Tips

1.    Can’t cover your school bills? If you’ve exhausted all federal aid options, private student loans can fill gaps in need, up to the school’s cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses.

2.    Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

3.    Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOPS1022001

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender