9 THINGS FIRST-TIME COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW U.S. Department of Education Resource Article Planning for college or career school can be overwhelming for many first-time students. We want to make sure you have easy access to information about financial aid, budgeting, time managementand more. Get prepared by reading these planning tips before school starts. Confirm that your school has your financial aid ready. The first step to financial planning for college is to apply for federal student aid. If you haven’t submitted it already, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as soon as you can! 1 Early summer is a good time to check with your school’s financial aid office to make sure that your paperwork is complete and you understand your financial aid package. You’ll also want to explore your options if there’s a gap between the cost of your school and the financial aid you’ve been offered. If you accept any student loans, make sure you only borrow what you need and keep track of what you’re borrowing. Learn to build a budget and manage your money. Learning how to budget when you start college can help you manage your finances in the long run — it’s important that you know how much money you’ve got coming in and going out. 2 Start thinking about your financial plan when building your budget: • Determine a time period for your budget. Are you budgeting for a month, academic year, or calendar year? • Find a budgeting tool, app, or spreadsheet template that helps you stay organized. It takes trial and error, so don’t feel discouraged if the first one you try isn’t the right fit. To track spending, many banks offer free budgeting tools that may be worth checking out. • Understand how much money you have coming in. This includes income from work and your financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, Federal Work-Study and student loans.
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