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Top Budgeting Tips for Single Parents

Single parents typically carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, paying for their child’s food, clothes, medical care, after-school programs, and more.

It can be challenging to make ends meet and avoid credit card debt. Saving for the future (including college) can be difficult.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There are smart strategies that help make it possible for single moms and dads and their kids to thrive. Establishing a basic budget, knowing how to handle taxes, and whittling down debt can all play a part in boosting your financial wealth.

Here, learn some important financial moves for single parents.

9 Ways to Budget As a Single Parent

Setting up a simple budget can be a smart move for a single parent. It can help you take control of your cash and also make your money work harder for you.

1. Crunching the Numbers and Creating a Single Parent Budget

A great way to get a better financial path is to first figure out where you currently stand and come up with a monthly budget.

How to budget as a single mom or dad is similar to what anyone else would do. You can do this by gathering your financial statements for the past several months, then using them to figure out your average monthly income (after taxes), including any child support or alimony you receive.

Next, you can tally up your fixed expenses (monthly bills) and variable expenses (clothing, food, entertainment) to see how much, on average, you are spending each month.

Ideally, you want your monthly inflow to be larger than the outflow — that way, you have money left over for savings and paying off debt. One smart technique can be the 50/30/20 budget rule, which divides your income into three parts: 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings and paying off debt beyond the minimum.

If your current income isn’t high enough to make that work, you can re-jigger the percentages and come up with a spending and saving plan that works for you.

2. Trimming Expenses in Your Single Mom Budget

Next, you need to figure out how to live on a budget.

If you find yourself breaking even or, worse, going backwards each month, you may next want to look hard at your list of expenses and start searching for ways to save money.

A key single parent budgeting move is to hone in on your recurring bills to see if there are any ways to lower them. You may now be living on a single income, which can involve some lifestyle tweaks. You might be able to switch to a cheaper cell phone, for example. Or, maybe you can find a better deal on car insurance or ditch your cable subscription.

You can also look for ways to cut everyday spending, such as breaking a morning coffee shop habit, cooking more often and getting less take-out, and using coupons (say, via RetailMeNot or Coupons.com) whenever you shop.

💡 Quick Tip: Help your money earn more money! Opening a bank account online often gets you higher-than-average rates.

3. Opening an Interest-Bearing Account

Once you start freeing up some money each month, it can be a good idea to start siphoning it off into a high-yield savings account. This can help you create some financial security for your family, as well as help you reach short-term goals, like going on a vacation or putting a downpayment on a home.

Even if you can only afford to set aside $25 or $50 per month, it will begin to add up.

Some good places to stash cash you may need in the next two or three years include a high-yield savings account, an online savings account, or a checking and savings account. These accounts typically earn more interest than a standard savings account, yet allow you to have easy access to your money when you need it.

You may want to keep an eye out for fees, and shop around for financial institutions that won’t charge you monthly and other account fees (which can take a bite out of your hard-earned savings).

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4. Prioritizing Emergency Savings

Expensive problems you can’t plan for often come up, like a car or home repair, taking a child to urgent care, or a sudden loss of income. Without a cushion, small money problems can quickly balloon into big ones if you are forced to run up high interest credit card debt to deal with them.

As you start building savings as part of your monthly single parent budget, it can be wise to prioritize emergency savings. Experts often recommend having at least three- to six-months worth of living expenses stashed away in a separate savings account where you won’t be tempted to spend it. That way it’s there when you need it.

5. Paying Off Your Credit Cards

A debt elimination plan can make a significant change in your monthly cash flow. When creating a budget for a single mom (or dad), it can be a good idea to leave room for credit card payments that are higher than the minimum.

You may want to start with the debt that has the highest interest first since borrowing from those creditors is costing you the most money. However, if you’re likely to get discouraged because it’s taking a long time to pay off that debt, you can start with the lowest balance debt. Getting some small debts paid off may motivate you to keep going.

Whatever debt you target, you can then pay more than the minimum payment on that debt while continuing to pay the minimum on others, with the goal to eliminate them one by one.

Another option: personal loans for single moms can help pay off the debt and substitute a lower-interest payment for what you were paying the credit card company. This may be an avenue to explore.

6. Planning for the Future

Once you’ve mastered your day-to-day finances, you may want to look toward your two big long-term financial security goals: retirement and your children’s college education.

If you can’t comfortably save for both at the same time, you may want to begin with retirement. While your kids can likely get loans for college, there aren’t loans for retirement.

You may want to start by contributing to any employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. If your employer is matching contributions, it can be a good idea to chip in at least enough to get the match (otherwise you’re turning away free money!). Or you can set up an IRA; even $25 or $50 a month at first is a start.

When you’re in the habit of regularly contributing to a retirement savings account, you may want to turn your attention to saving for college: An ESA (education savings account) or 529 college savings fund can help you save towards college expenses while getting a tax break.

💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more each month? Grow your personal savings by opening an online savings account. SoFi offers high-interest savings accounts with no account fees. Open your savings account today!

7. Automating Your Finances

As a single parent, you may be super busy, making it easy to pay bills late simply because you forgot. Automating your finances can simplify your budget (and your life) and help ensure you don’t get slapped with expensive fees or interest charges for being late with payments.

A good place to start is to set up autopay for all your recurring bills, either through your service providers or your bank. This way you don’t have to stay on top of due dates and remember to make every payment.

Automating can also be a great idea when it comes to saving. Often referred to as “paying yourself first,” you may want to set up an automatic transfer of money from your checking to your savings account on the same day each month, perhaps right after your paycheck gets deposited. This prevents you from spending those dollars or having to remember to transfer the funds to your savings at a later time.

8. Increasing Your Income

If your budget is super tight even after cutting expenses, then you may want to find ways to increase your income. This can help take a lot of the stress off budgeting as a single mom or dad.

There are many ways you can increase your income. For starters, if you’ve been at your job for a while and are performing well, you may want to consider asking for a raise. It can be helpful to research what the industry average pay is for your position with your experience to get an idea of how much you should ask for.

Another way to increase your income is to start a side hustle, like walking dogs, becoming a virtual assistant, taking on freelance work in your profession, selling your crafts, becoming a tutor, caring for other people’s kids, or offering music lessons.

9. Taking Advantage of Tax Breaks

Tax credits for single vs. married people can vary. When you’re budgeting as a single mom or dad, it can be smart to be aware of all the tax benefits you may be entitled to. A tax credit is directly subtracted from the amount you owe in taxes, while an exemption means that amount is deducted from your total income before your taxes are calculated.

Here are few tax benefits that may be worth investigating:

•   Filing as “Head of Household” instead of “Single.” If you meet the requirements, you may be able to get a higher standard deduction.

•   The child tax credit. If you share equal custody with your child’s other parent, only one of you can claim this. You may want to consider alternating years.

•   The earned income tax credit. Single working parents with low to moderate incomes often qualify.

•   The child and dependent care credit. If you’ve been paying for childcare so that you can work (or look for work), you may be entitled to this. But only one parent can claim it each year.

The Takeaway

Budgeting as a single mom or dad can be challenging. With some simple financial planning, however, you can start to feel less stressed about money and get closer to both your short- and long-term goals.

Key steps for single moms and dads include taking a close look at your monthly cash flow, trimming expenses, paying off your credit cards, taking advantage of tax benefits for parents, and saving a little each month to create financial security. If you’re looking for a simple way to stay on top of your single parent budget, you may want to consider if you have the right banking partner.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


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FAQ

How do single parents survive financially?

Single parents can survive financially by taking control of their money and budgeting, managing expenses, building up an emergency fund and savings, and minimizing debt. Budgeting for single moms and dads is important since you are likely the only income stream so every dollar counts.

How can a single parent afford everything?

To afford everything (meaning all the expenses related to raising a child), single parents can budget wisely, seek child support, bring in additional income, and seek government assistance if needed.

How much should a single parent have in savings?

It’s important for single parents to have an emergency with a minimum of three to six months’ worth of living expenses set aside. This can help if there’s an unexpected medical or car repair bill or if you are laid off; since you don’t have another income in the family, this is a very important move. Beyond that, experts recommend saving 20% of your salary if possible.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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.

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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College vs University: What’s the Difference?

Many Americans use the words “college” and “university” interchangeably, since both refer to schools that offer undergraduate degree programs. However, there are actually some key differences between colleges and universities.

Generally, schools that are called “colleges” tend to be smaller and focused on two- or four-year degrees, while those with “university” in their name are often larger institutions that offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

If you’re applying to college or graduate school, it can be helpful to understand the similarities and differences between colleges and universities. Here are key things to know.

Comparing College vs University

Colleges and universities are both higher educational institutions that people attend after finishing high school, but there are some major distinctions between the two. Here’s a helpful overview explaining the difference between college vs. university.

Community Colleges

When it comes to understanding colleges, there are a few different types to keep in mind. Community colleges and career colleges are usually smaller than traditional colleges, often offering two-year degrees, like an Associate’s Degree or pre-professional certificate. Many community colleges also host online degrees and, in some cases, do not expect students to live on campus.

Some students attend a community college with the intention of then transferring to a four-year college or university to get their undergraduate degree. Others opt for community colleges precisely because they want to earn a pre-professional or technical certificate and then work right away.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Four-Year Colleges

Another major type of college is a four-year institution. These schools offer undergraduate degrees, typically a Bachelor of Arts (BA). Sometimes, students choose to go to community college first because it is less expensive. But, some students will choose to go directly to a four-year college after high school.

Generally, four-year colleges are smaller schools that tend to focus on offering undergraduate degrees and a broad-based curriculum, including the liberal arts. Frequently, four-year colleges expect students to reside on campus during some or all of their studies.

Recommended: Ultimate College Application Checklist

Understanding Universities

Universities also offer undergraduate degrees, but they differ from colleges in some significant ways. Usually, a university is a larger institution, frequently offering graduate degrees as well.

In addition, most universities tend to be research-focused, hosting on-campus laboratories and hiring faculty recognized for their publications or academic findings. Universities can be either public or private.

One extra (and confusing) snarl here: At some institutions, the word “college” is also used to describe certain departments or divisions of the school. For instance, a university might have a College of Arts and Sciences or College of Engineering.

Pros and Cons of a College

When debating college vs. university, one potential advantage of choosing a college over a university is its smaller size. Not all colleges are smaller than universities, but it is a common difference.

In some cases, going to a smaller school can mean getting more one-on-one time with professors. If you’re hoping to maintain a relationship with professors after graduation (or intending to apply to graduate school), more interaction with professors can be an added benefit. Having smaller class sizes could also make it easier to get to know classmates.

Some colleges, especially liberal arts colleges, tend to focus more on general education (rather than offering pre-professional or research-based programs). If you have a particular interest or career you want to focus on as soon as you start college, it can be a good idea to make sure any colleges you’re applying to offer that field of study.

In some cases, a college might also have more limitations in regards to class availability, as some limit the number of students allowed per class. This isn’t the case for every college, so it can be useful to research each specific school’s policies carefully.

Depending on your chosen major, some classes may not be offered every semester at smaller colleges, which could mean you’ll need to engage in more long-term planning to ensure you’re able to take all required classes before graduating.

Pros and Cons of a University

Universities are, generally, larger and therefore boast more opportunities when it comes to availability of classes, diversity of majors, and extracurricular activities. Whether you’re interested in a niche major or looking for a wide variety of social clubs, you may be more likely to find it at a larger university.

Both public and private universities offer four-year degrees. There’s typically a difference in price — public universities are typically more affordable for in-state residents compared to private universities and colleges.

Universities might also offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Because universities can offer graduate degrees, there’s usually a stronger commitment to research at these schools, including master’s or doctoral degree programs.

If you’re looking to get an undergraduate and graduate degree at the same school, a university may be a good choice, since it might be easier to get accepted to the graduate program if you’ve already earned a degree at that school.

The cons of going to a university can also be tied to size. A larger university might not offer as many opportunities to secure one-on-one time with professors that you might find at a college. There may be more large lecture classes offered at a university than at smaller colleges, too.

Large class sizes can also make it harder for students to get to know their fellow classmates.

Recommended: States That Offer Free College Tuition Programs

Why Choose One Over the Other?

Whether it’s better to go to a college or a university will depend on each student’s specific situation and academic or career goals. Identifying a specific course of study (or professional trajectory) up front might make it easier to choose which schools to apply to and, ultimately, which one to attend.

If you’re interested in getting research experience and/or you’re looking for a variety of extracurricular activities, you might be happier with a university. If, on the other hand, you’re keen on getting a liberal arts education, value smaller classes, and/or would enjoy more opportunity to interact with your professors and classmates, you might feel more at home at a college.

Neither a college or university is, by definition, a better choice. It’s okay to apply to both colleges and universities, as long as each school meets your specific needs.


💡 Quick Tip: Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans that are available: private student loans, federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.

Funding College or University

Cost can also be a major factor when deciding where you will ultimately go to school. It can be a good idea to apply to a mix of schools (including both colleges and universities), then consider the cost of attendance and compare financial aid packages offered by each one.

Attending one of your state’s public universities is often more affordable than going to a private college or university. However, that may not always be the case, depending on what scholarships and grants a college is able to offer.

A smart first step to figuring out how you’ll pay for a college or university is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let you know if you are eligible for any federal aid, which may include grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans (which can be subsidized or unsubsidized). Grants and scholarships typically don’t have to be repaid, but loans generally do.

To fill in any gaps in funding, you may also want to explore private student loans. Private student loans aren’t based on need, and are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. To apply for a private student loan, you generally fill out a loan application either alone or with a cosigner. Rates vary depending on the lender but borrowers with excellent credit typically qualify for the lowest rates.

Just keep in mind that private student loans may not offer borrower protections, such as deferment and income-driven repayment plans, that come with federal student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


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-criteria 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.


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.

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Early Action vs Early Decision

If you have your heart set on going to a certain college, you may want to consider applying to that school either early decision or early action. What’s the difference?

Both early action and early decision let an admission’s office know you are interested in attending that school (over its competitors). However, there are some key differences.

If you apply early decision and are accepted, you must attend that college. If you apply early action, on the other hand, you’ll get an early response to your application but your acceptance is nonbinding — and you have until May 1 to decide whether or not you want to go.

Three are pros and cons to each option. Here’s what you need to know about early decision vs. early action.

Understanding Early Action and Early Decision

Early action and early decision are college application options that allow you to find out earlier than usual whether or not you’ve been accepted to the school.

Early action simply means that you apply and receive a decision well in advance of the institution’s regular response date, while early decision means you are making a commitment to a first-choice school and, if admitted, you will definitely enroll and withdraw all other applications.

Translated into simpler terms, early decision binds a student to attend a specific school while early action lets applicants know earlier if they’ve been admitted. While you can only apply to one school early decision, you can apply to multiple schools early action.

It’s worth noting that not all schools offer both options. Also, the rules regarding early action may vary from one school to another. At some universities, applicants who apply via the early action method are also expected not to apply early action at other schools, too.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Pros and Cons of Applying Early to College

Early decision and early action admissions both offer benefits. One reason some students opt to apply early is to firm up admission before the usual deadlines. If accepted early to the school of your choice, you can relax and focus on enjoying your last year of high school. You also have time to prepare well in advance to move to a specific area or attend that specific school.

Other advantages include being able to fill out fewer college applications and having time to apply elsewhere if you are not granted admission to your top school.

Also, if you apply early decision and don’t get accepted to your chosen school, that school may defer your application and reconsider it as part of the general application process. This gives you another shot at getting in.

On the downside, applying to a school early decision comes with a lot of pressure, since the decision will be binding. And, if accepted, you won’t be able to compare financial aid offers with other schools and select the one that works best with your budget. You will simply have to accept the aid package offered by that school.

Although early decision is generally binding, it’s possible — though not usually advisable — to break that agreement if your financial circumstances change and you need to rethink attending a specific school.

Applicants who back out of an early decision acceptance for non-financial reasons may need to pay a fine, and also run the risk of ruining their reputation at that school and potentially at other colleges.

Recommended: How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

Making a Decision about Early Decision

There are some critical distinctions between early action and early decision. While not all schools have early action and early decision options when applying, those that do will typically let you choose between one or the other.

Early decision is, typically, binding. If an applicant gets accepted via this method, they’re committing to attending that specific school (and, by extension, committing to withdrawing their name from consideration at other schools).

Early action is, typically, nonbinding. Students may be able apply early action to multiple colleges, but some schools have more restrictive early action policies.

Early admission, when nonbinding and non-exclusive, allows students to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools. After all, in many early action applications, a final decision to commit need not be made until spring (and students can still apply regularly to other universities).

With early decision, however, you won’t have the opportunity to compare financial aid offers from competing schools.

Early decision is generally recommended for students who are:

•   Informed about the colleges they’re applying to

•   Crystal-clear about their first choice school

•   Able to demonstrate a solid academic record before senior year.

Recommended: Ultimate College Application Checklist

Paying for College

Regardless of whether you apply early action, early decision, or regular decision, paying for college is likely front of mind. While some families are able to cover the cost of college through existing funds and assets, numerous applicants (and their parents) also seek out financial aid.

The term “financial aid” refers to funding that doesn’t come from the applicant’s (or their family’s) savings and income. Financial aid is available from federal and state governments, educational institutions, and private groups. It can be awarded in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.

To apply for financial aid, you simply need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This information is sent to schools you apply to. If accepted, you will receive a financial aid award letter from that school, which will provide information on the cost of attendance for the academic year and detail any grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal loans you are eligible to receive.

If your financial award isn’t enough to cover the full cost of college, you also have the option to apply for private student loans. These are offered through private lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

It’s important to note that government loans come with certain built-in federal benefits that private loans do not guarantee — including income-driven repayment plans and, when eligible, public service student loan forgiveness.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


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-criteria 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.


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.

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Is it Better To Apply Undecided or With a Major?

When you fill out your college applications, you may have the option of declaring your intended major. Selecting a major at this stage of the game often isn’t required, and many students don’t. However, you may be wondering –- will declaring a major improve (or potentially hurt) your chances of getting into a college?

Whether it’s better to begin college as an undecided major or select a major before you arrive on campus will depend on your situation, as well as the school and program you are applying to. Here’s what you need to know about applying to college with or without declaring a major.

What It Means to Declare a Major

Declaring a major can have varying levels of importance, depending on which school you’re applying to. At some schools, choosing a major merely indicates an interest in a field of study.

It could be okay to swap majors later as well, and the major you declare on your application could have little to no bearing on your chances of getting admitted to the school.

However, at some schools, and even within particular programs, declaring a major is a much bigger decision. It indicates that the student only wants to attend for that specific program and could come with more weight on whether the applicant is accepted or not.

It can be a good idea to inquire further from the admissions department at each school you are applying to, or even reach out to the department heads of their prospective majors to learn more.


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What It Means to Be Undeclared

Going into the application process as an undeclared student can be okay, so long as you understand how it could affect your chances of admission. Applying undeclared indicates to a school that you aren’t quite ready to commit to a program yet.

However, by applying at all, you are still showing your commitment and desire to attend that college or university, which may matter most.

Recommended: Ultimate College Application Checklist

When It Makes Sense to Declare a Major

If you’ve known what you’ve wanted to do since childhood — and there is absolutely nothing standing in the way of your goals — then you may want to go ahead and make that declaration. Manifest it into the universe by saying, “yes, I will study this and only this,” and mark it on every application.

Of course, there are also other reasons to declare. Some programs require choosing a major for admittance. This is typical of particularly competitive programs. This way, admissions officers know who is serious and who isn’t.

Some programs within specific universities may have additional requirements or supplemental essays with student applications. For example, Yale and Cornell both have supplemental essays for students applying to engineering programs. UPenn even requires a separate application for its international business program, the Huntsman.

It’s a good idea to check in with the college or university you are applying to and make certain your application is in order, particularly if you intend on applying to a rigorous or competitive program.

One more reason you may want to consider declaring a major is if you are going to apply for any study-specific scholarships. By declaring a major, you may become eligible for additional financial support including department-specific aid, housing, or professional development that are open only to specific majors.

When It’s OK to Remain Undeclared

Look, no one is going to fault a teenager for not having their entire life mapped out by the time they turn 18. You may know you want to gain a higher education, but are unsure exactly what you want to study, and that is totally okay too.

The good news is, many schools don’t require students to declare a major when they apply. In fact, some colleges and universities require students to take a number of general education courses in their first and second year in school. This provides students with not only a well-rounded education, but also with the opportunity to explore new things and discover potential passions they didn’t know they had before.

Some colleges and universities even offer “undeclared courses” to help students find the right path for them.

Essentially, if you are truly unsure of what you want to study, you will likely want to check “undeclared.” However, you may not want to use this as a way into a college or university believing you can transfer into your preferred program later as there is no guarantee that will happen. At which point, you might have to make a tough decision — pick a new major or transfer schools.

Recommended: Understanding Lower Division Vs. Upper Division Courses

How Being Undeclared Could Affect a College Experience

Being undeclared has both its pros and cons as a college student. As mentioned above, it could afford you more opportunity to explore several different fields of study at once, meet people from across your college, and even potentially decide you want to study more than one field and go for either a dual major or a major and a minor.

However, there are pitfalls you’ll also want to be aware of.

By going into college as an undeclared major, you may end up taking classes that do not count toward their college degree, adding up to both a waste of time and money.

Undeclared students may also find themselves left in the lurch when it comes time to apply to their preferred program. If they do not get in, then they may be forced to quickly pivot and find a new path.

Students admitted to college as an undeclared major may also miss out on important social aspects of college as well. If you declare a major in your third year, you could be entering a program where the rest of the students have all worked and studied together for the previous two years.

College is a surprisingly important place to learn to network and form life-long relationships, and declaring a major early could help.


💡 Quick Tip: Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans that are available: private student loans, federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.

Get at Least One Decision Off Your Plate

Whether you decide to go into the application as a declared or undeclared major, it can be a good idea to at least ensure all your financial ducks are in a row to pay for that college education.

Being financially prepared from the get-go can help you feel more at ease with exploring different academic pursuits, or going all-in on your dream program, without worrying about paying for tuition along the way.

A great first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let you know if you qualify for any federal or state financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans.

Once you get your financial aid package, however, you may find there are still gaps in funding. At this point, you might consider applying for a private student loan. These are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Rates and terms will vary depending on the lender, but students who have excellent credit (or who can recruit a cosigner who does) generally qualify for the lowest rates.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


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



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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-criteria 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.


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.

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.

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Guide to Financial Therapy

Money and your psyche can be deeply intertwined, and that’s where financial therapy can play a role. Financial therapy merges the emotional support of a psychotherapist with the money insights of a financial planner.

Working with a financial therapist can help clients begin to process their underlying feelings about money while optimizing behaviors related to their cash. This can minimize stress and anxiety, while honing plans for earning, spending, and saving more effectively.

Financial therapists can also assist couples in overcoming differences in their money habits and their approaches to cash management. The result? Possibly resolving and lessening money fights while building teamwork.

Read on to learn if this kind of professional counseling could help you, and, if that’s the case, what to expect from financial therapy and where to find a qualified professional.

What Is Financial Therapy?

A basic financial therapy definition is that it’s a practice that combines behavioral therapy with financial coaching. The goal is to help improve an individual’s feelings and behavior around money.

A certified financial therapist (or financial psychologist) can assist with issues such as money stress, overspending, or concerns about debt. But this differs from, say, a financial advisor who is helping you maximize your gain on investments or plan for your child’s future college expenses.

It also differs from financial coaching, which helps establish good money habits. Financial therapy can go deeper psychologically speaking. It can help a person work through childhood trauma related to money as well as money-related disorders.

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How Financial Therapy Works

According to the Financial Therapy Association (FTA) , financial therapy is a process informed by both therapeutic and financial expertise that helps people think, feel, and behave differently with money to improve overall well-being.

The profession sprang out of increasing evidence that money can be intrinsically tied to our hopes, frustrations, and fears, and also have a significant impact on our mental health.

What’s more, money can also have a major impact on our relationships. Indeed, research has shown that fighting about money is one of the top causes of conflict among couples.

And, while it might seem like bad habits and money arguments are things you can simply resolve on your own, the reality is that it’s often not that simple. That’s where financial therapy can help.

•   Many financial roadblocks, such as chronic overspending or constantly worrying about money, often aren’t exclusively financial. In many cases, psychological, relational, and behavioral issues are also at play.

•   Financial therapy can help patients recognize problematic behaviors, such as compulsive or impulsive shopping. It also aims to help people understand how various relationships and experiences may have led them to develop those behaviors as coping mechanisms or to form unrealistic or unhealthy beliefs.

•   Along with offering practical financial advice, a financial therapist can reduce the feelings of shame, anxiety, and fear related to money. It can help people who are struggling to recommit to money goals.

The reasons why financial therapy can help are the same as why traditional psychological therapy can help: It can lead people to understand that they can do something to improve their situation. That, in turn, can instigate changes and healthier behaviors.

Like conventional therapy, the number of sessions needed will vary, depending on the situation. A financial therapy relationship can last from a few months to longer.

Generally, a financial therapist’s work is “done” when you feel your finances are orderly and you have the skills to keep them that way in the future.

Recommended: Tips for Recovering from Money Addiction

Financial Therapists vs. Financial Advisors

Financial advisors are professionals who help manage your money.

They are typically well-informed about their clients’ specific situations and can help with any number of money-related tasks, such as managing investments, brokering the purchase of stocks and funds, or creating a retirement plan.

However, psychological therapy is not why financial advisors are hired, nor is it their area of expertise.

If a person requires real emotional support or needs help breaking bad money habits, a licensed mental health professional, such as a financial therapist, should likely be involved.

A certified financial therapist (someone trained by the FTA) can work with you specifically on the emotional aspects of your relationship with money and provide support that gets to the root of deeper issues.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of financial therapy, professionals who enroll in FTA education and certification include psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, financial planners, accountants, counselors, and coaches. Some experts recommend being sure that the professional you work with is first and foremost a licensed therapist with a deep understanding of psychology.

Financial TherapistsFinancial Advisors
Address psychology relating to moneyAdvise on managing and investing money
Can be certified by the FTACan be certified as CPA, CFP, CFA, and ChFC, among other designations
Focus on behaviors and attitudesFocus on budgeting and growth

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Financial Therapy vs. Other Therapy

If you are having issues related to money (say, losing sleep due to anxiety or arguing with your partner about spending), you might think almost any mental health professional could help.

A financial therapist, however, can be your best bet in this situation. These professionals have special training and expertise related to how money can impact a person’s emotional wellness.

They also are also trained in techniques to help clients overcome issues related to money. In other words, they are laser-focused on the kind of emotional responses and problematic habits that crop up around money.

Do You Need a Financial Therapist?

If you’re considering whether a financial therapist could help you, you may want to think about your general relationship to money.

If you feel you have anxiety about money, or unhealthy behaviors and feelings when it comes to spending, budgeting, saving, or investing, you might benefit from exploring financial therapy.

Often, unhealthy saving, spending, or working habits are a symptom of other negative habits related to mental health (feelings of low self-worth, for instance).

Keep in mind that it’s possible to have an unhealthy relationship with money even if your finances are good on paper.

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Top 4 Reasons People Seek Financial Therapists

Here’s a more specific look at why a person might benefit from financial therapy.

1. Avoiding Money Management

Some people hide from their finances. They don’t budget, don’t know exactly how much they earn, pay bills late (or not at all). Working with a financial therapist could expose the root of this behavior and improve financial management.

2. Money Stress

Many people have anxiety around their money. This could involve worrying about how they will pay off their debt to worrying about going bankrupt, even though they are earning a good salary. Others may feel guilty about spending money or carry a lot of trauma about money from their childhood. A financial therapist can work to explore and resolve these emotions.

3. Fighting About Finances

If you often argue with your partner, friends, or other loved ones about money, you might find that a financial therapist can help you defuse this source of tension. It can help couples deal with what’s known as financial infidelity.

4. Poor Money Habits

Do you tend to “shop til you drop” when bored? Have you spent or gambled away your emergency fund? Do you overwork yourself in an effort to accumulate wealth? Do you tend to hop from one “get rich quick” scheme to another? A financial therapist could help you break these habits and develop new, beneficial ones.

These are some of the scenarios that a financial therapist could help you with.

Finding a Financial Therapist

Like choosing any therapist, you often need to shop around a bit to find the right fit—someone you feel you can relate to, trust, and you also feel understands you.

For those who may not have access to a financial therapy professional in their backyard, many offer services via video conferencing.

You can start your search with the Find A Financial Therapist tool on the FTA website, which features members and lists their credentials and specialties.

Your accountant or financial counselor might also be a good source of referrals.

As with choosing any other financial expert or mental health professional, it’s a good idea to speak with a few potential candidates. In your initial conversations with candidates, you may want to discuss the therapist’s training and specific area of expertise, as well as your needs and situation. This can help you assess how good a match they are.

It can also be a good idea to ask how long they have been providing financial therapy services, what their fees are, as well as if some or all of the fee may be covered by your medical insurance.

The Takeaway

Financial therapy merges financial with emotional support to help people deal with and improve stress, decision-making, and habit-forming related to money.

If you frequently feel stressed and/or overwhelmed when you think about money (or you simply avoid thinking about money as much as possible), you might be able to benefit from at least a few sessions of financial therapy.

While it might seem like hiring a financial therapist is another expense that could complicate an already difficult financial situation, it might be better to view it as an investment in your emotional and financial wellness, one that could help you build financial stability and wealth in the future. It can be an important facet of your overall money management.

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What does a financial therapist do?

A financial therapist combines expertise in psychology and finances to help people improve their attitudes toward money and their habits relating to money. They can help individuals manage such issues as money anxiety, overspending, and financial infidelity.

Is financial therapy the same as financial planning?

Financial therapy and financial planning are not the same thing. Financial therapy can help a person improve their attitude toward money and their behaviors related to money. Financial planning is focused on budgeting, debt management, and growth of wealth.

Can therapy help with finances?

Therapy can help with finances. You might have stress related to money due to childhood trauma centered on finances. Or you might be compulsively overspending or ignoring your money due to emotions about such matters. Financial therapy could help you work through these and other issues.


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As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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.

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.

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