The Best Financial Tips for Students to Survive College

Surviving college can be challenging but it is still one of the best methods to be financially independent in the future.

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College graduates can earn a 50% higher salary than those employees with only a high school diploma according to Forbes.

You might be physically fit while you’re young and in college, but staying in good financial shape is another matter.

Being financially literate is hard because there are a lot of other things to focus on: the effort to get good grades, your social life, your love life, and your health. Most students set aside financial considerations in hopes that they’ll make good money with a decent job after college.

Statistically speaking, counting on your postgraduate job does make some sense. In terms of college degree earnings, college grads make $549 per week more than high school grads on average.

And, nearly 15 percent more college grads are employed. Yet, student loan debt provides a stark contrast to these numbers — with 43.2 million student borrowers are in debt by an average of $39,351 each.

Very Valuable Financial Tips for College Students

No one would blame you for wanting to keep from being a part of that stat. To avoid looming student loan debt, consider the following:

Build good habits now

Don’t wait until after you graduate — train yourself to manage your money now. This is excruciating for students who aren’t ready to live in the “real world” and are using college as a way to avoid adulthood. But if you’re the type of student who has your future in mind, look at college as a window to the future.

Here’s how it works:

Heed these habits of financially successful people:

Don’t be a cynic

Cynics earn less money than people with positive attitudes; start small and have a positive perspective toward saving money.

Set SMART goals with your money

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Hack your budget

Look at what you’re spending money on each month and think of ways to save $500 each month. It is possible.

Believe in your money management skills

You are in control of every decision you make with your money, and each decision carries consequences. Money management skills are a crucial part of helping you graduate less broke.

Invest for the long-term

When you’re able to start investing in your 20s, don’t get squeamish and withdraw when stocks fall; stay the course and let your money ride. Don't forget to have a diversified portfolio and consider investing in cryptos like Bitcoin.

Avoid being impulsive

Avoiding impulsiveness is a big factor in adhering to all of the above tips. Analyze your next money move before you make it. Don’t just tell yourself, “I’m going to spend less on stuff I don’t need.” Sit down, think about what you spend money on, write it down, and find things to cut out.

Take online courses

Why online courses? To avoid student loan debt, you should work while in college, and online classes allow you more flexibility so you can tailor your schedule accordingly.

Find ways to get money for college

With tuition costs continuing to rise, finding cash for college may be difficult. We've compiled a short list of methods to finance your education. Know what's available to you and make a budget to decrease debt.

You have some great options in terms of paying for college:

Find an employer who offers tuition assistance

For example, Starbucks will pay for your tuition at Arizona State University, and there are other companies that will help you pay for college as well.

Apply for federal grants

A grant is basically sponsorship money for your education.

Apply for scholarships

There are many scholarships available from private and public organizations.

Join the military

A tough pill to swallow for some, but the G.I. Bill can help pay your way through college.

Noticing a common trend with all of the above? They require extra legwork, but don’t fret; if you work hard to pay your way through college with all the available options, your time after school will be much more enjoyable.

Learn about your student loan debt

You’re not required to begin paying on loans till after you graduate, and even then there’s a grace period.

But once the payment terms kick in, they’re a very serious loan, and your payment history will reflect on you for a long time.

Never default on student loans — it hurts your FICO credit score. Within the first year, skipping a payment on a fixed-rate 15-year loan will hurt you for the next 22 years.

If you default on the loan — which means you don’t make payments for more than 270 days — it will seriously damage your credit score for seven years.

You won’t be able to buy a house, it’ll be tough to buy a good car — just don’t do it.

You can also look into refinancing your student loans, so you can get a lower interest rate and save money.

Top picks for student loan refinancing include:


LenderVariable APRLoan TypesEligible Loans:Terms
2.24% to 6.59%Variable and FixedPrivate and Federal5, 7, 10, 15, 20


splash refinance student loans1.99% to 7.10%Variable and FixedPrivate and Federal5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20


1.99% to 5.64%Variable and FixedPrivate and Federal5 – 20


lendkey1.99% to 5.25%Variable and FixedPrivate and Federal5, 7, 10, 15, 20


You can learn more about refinancing student loans here.

Build good credit

If you’re working, you have the opportunity to start building your credit score, meaning when you graduate you’ll be in good financial standing and ready to succeed on your own.

If you don't know your credit score, companies like Credit Sesame can provide you your credit score for free in a few minutes.

Even if you have to take out loans, student debt and credit score are not necessarily enemies. Save up money while you’re working and then make regular payments on your loan. Don’t make partial payments, pay the entire amount due each time your bill comes around. Credit agencies will take note and your score will climb steadily.

Even during college you can begin building good credit. Get a student credit card and get smart with it. Learn about how credit cards work. Only make credit purchases you can afford to pay off immediately. In other words, make strategic purchases on the card. Check how much you have in the bank, then buy a few things (the fun part), then pay what you owe at the end of the month.

The interest rate on your college card will skyrocket after the initial terms expire, I guarantee it. That’s one reason why you must pay off card debts in full when payment is due. Once you have the chance to get a new card with better terms (such as a cash rewards card), take it.

Then, make sure your original card is free of all debts, dispute any incorrect records, and leave the card open with zero debts. This shows creditors you’re responsible.

You Can’t Lose

college savings goals

If you maintain a job during college, look into grants and scholarships, and pay your way, you’ll graduate debt-free and in good financial standing. Maintain that college credit card in good standing along the way. Or, take out loans, get a job, save money, and pay your loans off reliably after you graduate.

You can’t lose with these strategies because you’ll be free of the steel trap that is student loan debt, and your credit score will be stacked to make important purchases. What’s more, you’ll have that degree, which pretty much guarantees you’ll make more money than high school grads. It also guarantees you learned something, and that’s the most valuable thing of it all.

However, figuring out how to pay college fees can be nerve-wracking. Thus, if you want to pay for your own education but you are not yet sure how to do it, you are in the right place.

How to Pay for College

Here are some of the strategies that you can try to pay for college:

Save money in advance

Save enough money to pay your fees via the 529 plan. The 529 plan can gain tax benefits unlike the taxable investment or regular savings account.

If you save for a longer period of time, you can definitely survive college.

However, since 529 relies heavily on the stock market, it is also important to have a backup plan. You can open backup savings in case of any problems in the end.

Understand investing

Once you graduated from college you will likely get your first post-grad job and start getting regular paychecks. Cha-ching! While it's okay to splurge a bit, you'll want to start building up your retirement nest egg.

This means investing in your 401(k) and even open a ROTH IRA so that over time these accounts grow due to compound interest.

For example, if you invested $1,000 at age 22, that will become $20,000 when you are 72 given a 6% rate of return.

If you know you want to invest but want a professional app to do it for you then consider micro-investing apps. My personal favorite one currently is Acorns.

Acorns is a smartphone app that “rounds up” your spending to the nearest dollar and invests that difference. You link a credit card and checking account, then Acorns does the rest. This microsavings service makes investing almost painless because you are literally investing pennies at a time.

It’s a simple process. And there’s no need to ask where to get quarters to add to your investing account, as the app rounds up your purchases automatically and invests the funds for you.

Earn $20 bonus

With Acorns, you can easily invest your spare change. Anyone can “squirrel” away some money and become an investor with Acorns. Enjoy a $20 welcome bonus when you open a new Invest account and set up recurring investments.

Open Account

Apply for scholarships

With scholarships, you can definitely make your way through college without having to think about the money that you need to pay back. However, you need to qualify for the scholarships. But there are websites that can help college students find scholarships that meet their qualifications.

For example, there are scholarships for people of color, men, women, and LGBTQ students. You can check with different organizations, banks, and companies.

Remember to apply for scholarships at your preferred school. Even if you’re already in college, keep on applying for scholarships. With this, you can get funding for the housing, books, and other costs inside the university.

Take AP classes

In some states, they offer college credit for lessons which are already taken during high school. These AP classes are taught in a higher standard and require studying using AP books.

Sometimes, they give credit, especially in a public university. The credits can be transferred to state schools depending on where you are residing. With this, you can reduce the number of units or loads in your current semester and save money.

Get a private student loan

Some student applies for private student loans to survive in college. There are various student loans that offer lower interest rates versus federal student loans.

But, it is essential to remember that you have to meet the requirements set by the credit company. Sometimes, you also need a cosigner to qualify for the loan.

Thus, you must consider carefully whether student loans must be a part of your college life. These types of loans do not have protections, unlike federal loans.

Get multiple jobs

Apart from checking on the best student loans available today, you can also check the hiring page for college students. This can give you some money to pay for your living expenses. Aside from money, some businesses offer free meals.

Whether you work off or on campus, the income that you have can help you with your education expenses. This can also reduce the loan that you need to borrow.

During summer vacation, you can work to earn money for the coming semester. However, make sure to balance your work and studies so you can pass your degree.

Make extra payments when possible

If you get a big bonus at work or a generous Christmas cash gift from mom and dad, consider putting it towards your student loan debt.

Remember, the lower the number in your debt account, the slower the interest accrues.

Any large chunk you can put towards your loans will go a long way towards relieving debt-related stress. You can also pay off your debt using debt payoff apps like ChangEd.

ChangEd gives borrowers the ability to link all of their loans and builds a repayment journey that aligns with any budget. This app will help you save in small increments and automate those savings toward your debt regularly to help borrowers save in interest and become debt free sooner.

ChangEd, a Shark Tank and Mark Cuban backed app, is an app that allows you to link all of your student loans into one easy to use app. This app will help you build a repayment path that's budget friendly and will automate extra savings it finds toward your debt.

It's helped thousands of borrowers pay off over $20 Million in debt, saving the average borrower thousands in interest costs and helping them pay it off years sooner. If you're interested, you can sign up for more information from them here.


ChangeEd collects your spare change to pay off your student loans. You can easily save money, save time, and manage all of your loans in one place with ChangEd.

Pay Off Student Loans

The Bottom Line

As someone who wants to survive in college, you’ll undoubtedly be carrying extensive debt with you. However, don’t let this sum allow you to rely on the bank of Mom and Dad any more than is absolutely necessary.

To become an independent college student, stay on top of your finances and cut your student debt by working hard, consolidating your debts and ditching credit cards.

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About the author

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs is a personal finance expert, and the founder of My Millennial Guide, a personal finance site helping you unlock the wealth of freedom. He helps millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. He regularly writes about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. He has been quoted as a top personal finance blogger in major publications including Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, Fox News, MSN Money and more.

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