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Financial Prep for Your College Life

Students with backpacks heading to class on a college campus.
Dreaming of independence and freedom after high school is part of the high school experience. As graduation approaches, how prepared do you feel to manage your financial life? It is never too late (or early) to start developing financial skills for life after graduation.

Establishing a relationship with a bank you trust is the foundation for a healthy financial life. Your bank is a safe place to keep and organize your money, ask for help with financial questions, and borrow money for expenses you may not be able to cover upfront.

A checking account is for paying expenses. You deposit your income and use it for everyday purchases like fuel, groceries, or your favorite latte as well as your monthly cell phone bill, car payment, and insurance.

Next, open a savings account. Use this account to save for large future expenses like next semester’s books, a deposit for a new apartment, tires for your car, or a spring break trip. You will also save for unexpected and emergency expenses like car repairs or school project expenses you didn’t anticipate.

Activate your online banking, set up BillPay, and down-load your bank’s mobile app. These are tools used daily to manage your financial life. You can check your account balances, verify your paycheck direct deposit, transfer funds between accounts, pay bills, and more.

Your banker is a great resource and a friend for your financial life. Ask for help if you don’t understand how your accounts or mobile app works. They are rooting for your success and would love to help you on the journey.

A budget estimates your income and expenses over a specific time. It helps determine what must be paid and how much is available for gas, food, clothes, and entertainment. Do an online search for free budgeting tools. Start with a simple, short-term budget, such as a budget for next semester and each month.

Review your spending and budget weekly to track your progress. Don’t be afraid to adjust your budget along the way as needs change or if your budget is not working.

Credit card companies do not always have your best interest at heart. They may entice you to sign up for their card with a free t-shirt or other rewards. If you don’t pay your full credit card balance each month, you will pay high-interest fees for the money you borrow.

As an alternative, see if your parents will add you as an authorized signer on their credit card account. This will provide the opportunity to create a strict plan for card use and will hold you accountable, helping you spend responsibly.

Scholarships and federal grants are great options because they do not require repayment. Speak to your school guidance department and your local community foundation for a list of available scholarships. Don’t forget about the Wilke S. and James W. Lemon Scholarship offered by The Friendship State Bank. Applications are available at

The scholarship application process is not easy, but neither is forking over hard-earned money for a student loan payment in the years following your college graduation.

Student loans come with a variety of options. Ask lots of questions to determine which option is best for you and ensure you understand the repayment requirements. Will you be required to make payments while you are in school or will repayment begin after college graduation? Will you be charged interest while you are in school or will the interest be deferred?

Your financial life is ultimately yours. How it develops and grows depends on your goals, values, discipline, and sometimes unexpected circumstances. Don’t be ashamed to ask for support. Connecting with people you trust who can help you in low times, hold you accountable to your goals, and celebrate your success will lead to a more fulfilling experience.