A Parent’s Guide To College Student Finances – A Balancing Act

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It will not be long before your student moves the last box from the car into their new room.  You have done an amazing job guiding their path through high school and now it is their turn to shine on their own.  College is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and development along with preparation for a future career.  Unfortunately, many students are not prepared to tackle their financial independence and responsibilities.

Let’s recall the story of  Jane, a bright girl, raised outside of New York City and seemingly very prepared for college.  One night, Jane came to visit her accounting major friend and said she had a big problem.  The bank had called and said she had no money in her bank account.  Jane looked at kept a straight face and said – “How can that be…look how many checks I still have!”

While this story, humorous as it may be, helps prompt parents to remember to prepare their students for the independence they will achieve this fall when they begin moving into their Residence Halls.

Here are a few tips to share with your student and a couple websites that help with financial literacy.  As parents, there will always be engagements in some awkward conversations, but don’t let personal finance be one of those subjects.

  1. Go to the Bank with your student and set up a Bank account for them.  If you choose, set up a weekly or monthly funding into the account so that your student understands what their financial capacity is for each month.
  2. Teach your student how to balance their checkbook.  Monthly at a minimum, but these days you can balance everyday to make sure there are funds available.  Most college students know how to use Excel or other spreadsheet software so this should be pretty simple.  There are also ways to do this with software or online, but a college account should be simple to manage.
  3. Fee free ATM.  Teach your student to use the least costly ATM, not the most convenient.  Bank fees can add up very quickly and easily eat away at your student’s available funds.
  4. Be careful using your ATM/Debit Card as a credit card.  Many retailers and restaurants may place a hold on certain funds on your students account until they are paid by the credit card processing company.  These holds may impact your student’s available funds and cause overdraft charges.
  5. Build a budget together and allow for some splurges (midnight pizza, a trip to the closest city).  This way you and your student will be able to balance their funds with all the available opportunities.
  6. A couple helpful links:



Good luck to your student this fall and to all parents during the transition as well!