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College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming School Year

July 26, 2019 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming  School Year

Freshman year is full of firsts. The first time living in a dorm and away from your family. Your first college classes. And your first college friends. It’s a thrilling time, full of potential. Your main responsibility is to learn and you’re living with all of your friends. But navigating all of the new responsibilities that come with being a college student can be challenging.

You are solely responsible for making sure you get to class on time and that you have enough time to get your work done. You’ll need to set up new routines for your day to day life. It’s a huge transition. It may also be one of the first times in your life you are responsible for budgeting and managing your expenses.

Establishing solid financial habits now, will set the foundation for your spending and saving habits in the future. But finances can be tricky. If you’re not sure where to start, this handy college freshman checklist can help keep you on track.

Opening a Checking Account

As a college student, chances are you’re living on-campus, away from your family. That also means you’re further away from the Bank of Mom and Dad. Now that you’re starting to be independent, if you don’t have one already, you may find the need to set up a checking account of your own.

Some colleges have banks on campus that make it easy and convenient for you to open a checking account. It’s worth comparing different banks and credit unions before you make your final decision. Look at fees, minimum balance requirements, ease of online or app use, and branch locations.

Some banks are open seven days a week, which is helpful if you aren’t able to make it to one in-person during traditional business hours. You might also want to consider online banks, which might be helpful if you don’t have reliable transportation.

If you already have a checking account, it might be time to make sure you’re getting the most out of your account. Consider SoFi Money®, which seamlessly combines the benefits of an interest-bearing account with the ease of online checking. You’re able to easily track and manage your spending in the app, plus there are no fees.

Keeping Track of Your Spending

Creating a budget you’ll be able to follow is a great way to stay on top of your spending. By thoughtfully managing your money you may be able to avoid falling into the “broke college student” lifestyle.

If you’ve never stuck to a budget before, there’s no time like the present. Begin by listing all your monthly income, whether it comes from a job, helpful parents, or both. Then list your expenses, like car insurance, a phone bill, or books for school.

Also include your “fun” money, for things like dining out, shopping, or travel. But if your expenses are more than your income, you’ll need to make adjustments. You can find budget spreadsheets online or convenient apps to keep track of your spending if you don’t want to start from scratch.

And remember, a budget isn’t set in stone. It’s a living document that is always changing based on your financial situation. Try your best and always look to improve it.

Meeting Your Professors and Counselors

You don’t have to wait until graduation is around the corner to start networking. Take the time to speak with your professors and other college staff early on. The connections you make while you’re at school will go a long way even after you walk across the stage.

Many jobs request references. If you don’t have much professional experience, having a referral from a professor can help give you an edge over other applicants. If you’re in a club or another activity, consider chatting with a coach or advisor about your long-term goals.

Even if they can’t help you get a job, they might be able to help you flesh out your plans. Maybe you’re interested in changing your major or are thinking about applying to graduate school down the line. A professor or trusted faculty member can provide valuable insight that could help inform your decisions.

Don’t Ignore Your Student Loans

Whether you have federal, private, or a mix of both, it’s important to stay on top of your student loans. It can be tempting to ignore them until after you graduate, but depending on the type of loan you borrowed, you may be responsible for paying interest that accrues on the loan while you are in school.

If you’re not paying attention to your loans, this could mean when you finally check in after graduation and your grace period, the amount you owe could be larger than you anticipated.

Knowing how much you owe—or at least preparing your finances for the future expense—can be helpful when you finally are responsible for making payments on the loans.

Being informed is critical to creating a solid financial plan, so keep a pulse on your student loans. If you aren’t aware of what is coming, you could miss a payment or even worse, default on your loans, which can seriously impact your credit score.

After you graduate, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. Depending on your credit history and earning potential (among other factors), you could stand to secure a lower rate as a graduate that has entered the workforce.

Looking Into Getting a Credit Card (and Handling it Responsibly)

Now that you’re on your way to adulthood, it may be worth starting to build your credit history. If you can be responsible with the credit card, having one in college is one way to help you establish a baseline for your credit history.

If you do open a credit card, it’s important to make an effort to pay your bills on time, and pay off the total amount you owe every month. Once credit card debt starts to build, it can be difficult to get out from under it, so it’s wise to take steps to avoid it in the first place.

Responsibly using a credit card is one thing that can help you grow your creditworthiness. Whether it’s to buy your first home or you need a new car, a better credit score will likely result in more favorable loan terms.

Visiting the Career Center

Being a freshman college student can be a full-time job in itself. Add in extracurriculars or athletics, a part-time job, and a social life, and you’ll have a jam packed calendar.

Even if it feels like you’re just barely getting enough sleep, take the time to visit your school’s career center and take advantage of any job fairs that the school has organized.

If you need an internship or part-time job, start with the career center. They likely have resources to help you prepare for job interviews, design your resume, and write a killer cover letter. You may also be able to set up new networking opportunities with students or alumni in your desired field.

Even if you’re not entirely sure of your career path, you could receive helpful information at the career center. Employees are there to not only help you get a job, but to help you find a career that you’ll love.

Checking Your List and Following Your Needs

College is a time to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. It’s a learning experience in every sense of the word. This college freshman checklist is just a starting point to help you get acclimated.

Don’t forget to check back in as you continue your education. It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of college, but don’t forget to check in on your financial and professional goals.

Commiting to your financial health and literacy now will help you even after graduation. Skills like budgeting and networking will always be applicable. After you graduate, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. (But that’s a ways off, of course.)

Considering SoFi Private Student Loans

Of course, one big piece of the financial puzzle when you’re starting college is funding your education. Whether you’re in the running for a full ride to college, or are sorting through your financial aid options, it’s always comforting to know that you have options.

Before considering private student loans, however, it’s important to exhaust all of your federal loan options. But unfortunately, there are federal loan limits for undergrads that might prevent your federal loans from covering the entire tuition bill. You can also, of coursework on supplementing your financial aid package with merit-based scholarships or work-study opportunities.

After these options, you can also consider SoFi private student loans. SoFi private student loans come with no origination fees, no late fees, and no insufficient fund fees. And if you’re applying as an undergrad-to-be, SoFi allows cosigners, which could potentially help you qualify for a better interest rate. (It’s important to understand, though, that means your cosigner is equally responsible for your loan.) And when you graduate, SoFi private student loans come with flexible repayment plans.

Learn more about SoFi private student loans—the application is entirely online. You can prequalify in just a few minutes.


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