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How Students Can Prepare Themselves for College

College preparation can seem like a never-ending cycle of SATs, campus visits, and applications. Once these important items are out of the way, college prep often feels smooth sailing — at least until you have to pack the car to the gills for move-in day.

However, don’t underestimate the impact of the transition on your child’s financial, mental, and emotional health. The transition to college can be exciting and scary at the same time. With the tips laid out in this article, you can make sure that your child is financially, mentally, and emotionally prepared for the college journey.

Financial Preparation for College

1. Build A Budget

Overspending early on is a mistake many college freshmen make, but you can avoid this issue by building a budget. Understand how much you will need for essentials, like food and gas, and how much you may have left over for discretionary spending. By monitoring your activity monthly, you can quickly correct any overspending issues that arise.

2. Learn to File Your Own Taxes and FAFSA

You may be a dependent on your parents’ tax return, but it’s important to learn how to independently prepare and file your taxes. This is an important life skill, and learning how to navigate the admittedly byzantine tax code will put you ahead of the pack when you are out of school. Similarly, make sure you are responsible for the proper filing of your FAFSA.

3. Create a Credit Profile

It’s never too early to build a strong financial and credit profile. Utilizing credit responsibly offers two valuable benefits. You are able to show future creditors you can successfully manage credit, and you can build valuable points or perks. Look for cards geared toward students. And don’t build a balance or spend beyond your limit!

4. Research Part-Time Jobs 

Getting a part-time job can reduce the student loan amount you need to borrow. It can also teach you how to effectively manage your time. You may even be able to find a “warm-body” job (like working at the desk of the library or gym) that allows you to study while on the job.

5. Prepare for Internships

Internships provide an opportunity to experience your chosen major or career before you enter the job market. They offer invaluable insight into the inner workings of your chosen path, as well as the ability to network and build important relationships. Leverage your college or university’s career center to find the right set of opportunities for you.

Mental Preparation for College

6. Get Organized

One of the biggest adjustments when entering college is how to effectively manage your time. Parents are no longer directing your day-to-day; that’s fully up to you. Self-reliance is a critical first step to adulthood. Try implementing a calendar or task-tracking tool to organize your multiple deadlines, exam dates, and assignments.

7. Embrace Opportunities

Colleges and universities offer a near-limitless set of clubs, organizations, and associations to join. Try a couple and see which fit your interests and your time. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new or unexpected! 

8. Set Boundaries

Proactively setting boundaries keeps you on the path to living life with intention and purpose. 

It’s important to not overcommit or take on projects that are mentally and emotionally draining just to impress your peers or professors. Define what is important to you and don’t be afraid to communicate these boundaries with others.

9. Build Soft Skills

Technical knowledge is important to be competent at your job, but understanding how to communicate clearly, listen openly, and collaborate effectively are the real keys to building a stellar career. Try taking communication classes and find opportunities to practice and improve your public speaking skills. 

10. Take Advantage of Campus Resources

Universities provide more than just classes. Need help building your resume? Your career center likely has resources or templates you can leverage. Feeling stressed about managing your studies, job, or relationships? Your health center can provide guidance for mindfulness. 

Emotional Preparation for College

11. Ask for Help

You don’t need to shoulder your burden silently. College can be a very stressful time — new environments, new expectations, and new responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to ask your counselors or professors for guidance on how to find the resources you need.

12. Be Open to Different Perspectives

Home is where the heart is, but your mind should be a world traveler. Colleges and universities welcome students from all over the world, so keep an open mind and find commonalities among those with perspectives and experiences different from your own.

13. Implement Proper Self-Care

You might find yourself pulling the occasional all-nighter fueled by caffeine and candy to cram for an exam, but this is an unsustainable way to operate. Proper sleep, healthy eating, and consistent exercise will be a tailwind to better academic performance and lower stress.

14. Manage Your Mindset

Common mindsets that can hold you back in college are the fear of not belonging, the fear of failing academically, and the stress of unrealistic or overburdened expectations. Recognizing that the transition to college life is significant and being willing to ask for help is an important first step to creating the right mindset for success.

15. Build Connections

Expand your personal and professional network by getting involved in the community and on campus. By being a helpful resource to others, you will build positive, impactful relationships. These relationships can be critical at some point in your future. Oftentimes, it’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters. 

College Planning with Harbor Crest Wealth Advisors

The transition to college is a momentous life event for your child. They will be thrust into new environments and have to independently manage their financial, mental, and emotional well-being. The tips laid out in this article can help your child start their college experience on the right foot. If you would like additional advice on how Harbor Crest Wealth Advisors helps families build an education plan that fits their goals, values, and needs, sign up for our newsletter today.