Remember college? It added a whole new level of independence to your life . . . and hopefully that was a good thing. But when you’re discovering so much in college, secrets can form to keep parents from worrying (or cracking down).
In College, Secrets are Part of the Experience, Right?
The whole experience of college can be so new and exciting that it’s easy for kids to get absorbed in the culture. College secrets feel like part of the game. But some truths are best revealed.
High school graduates have difficult decisions to make when they enter college, and many of them are pressured by the poor advice of their peers who are just figuring out life for themselves.
What are your kids telling you about college? Do you think they’re giving you the whole truth? Are they making the best decisions possible? Here are some college secrets you need to know.
1. Students can and should work part-time.
“But I have to study!”
“Billy’s parents help him with his college expenses!”
“I won’t have a social life if I work a job!”
If they tell you they’re too busy, make sure they are. Traditional full- or even part-time work can become overwhelming, but campus jobs are designed for busy students. Managers supervising these jobs are used to scheduling around classes and social events.
And work’s impact on grades? A 1993 study published in The Journal of Student Financial Aid found that college students who were employed actually had a slightly higher average grade point average (2.72) than those who weren’t working (2.69).
The secret here is that campus jobs are doable and a great way for your kids to help pay for textbooks and earn a bit of extra spending money for movie nights with their friends.
2. Student loans aren’t a must-do.
This is one of the best kept secrets of the lending industry. Did you know that your kids can go to college without student loans? Campus jobs will help, but here are several more options:
- Help pay for their education using an Education Savings Account or a 529 plan.
- Encourage your kids to get high-paying summer jobs to fund their education.
- Show them how they can put college off for a few years and work a full-time job to save for their education.
- Teach them how to make a budget so that they can stay on track and pay their way through college instead of taking out student loans.
Did you know: Some students take their student loan checks and buy clothes or other discretionary items with them? Horrible, right? It happens.
My wife and I are currently paying cash for her education by saving her annual tuition each year in cash. I wrote about it here on the DailyPerk a while back. We’ve had to increase the amount we save in our college fund since that time, but it’s always good to roll with the punches. Plus, we have been able to avoid student loans altogether so far!
3. Students don’t need to live off campus, they want to.
When living off campus means more out of pocket, it’s not a requirement for a great college experience. Young college students might rush off and rent an apartment or even buy a house to prove they’re adults, only to be hit with expenses they can’t afford. Not a good plan.
Instead, they should consider living in the dorms or on-campus housing. Typically, there are even low-cost housing options for married students.
Of course, there are circumstances where living off-campus is less expensive. If that’s the case, after factoring in additional bills for heat, electricity, gas, cable and internet — on top of the cost of rent — by all means, let ‘em do it! But this is rarely the case.
In a recent interview, Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said that school has actually seen an increase in the number of students moving back on campus after finding off-campus living fell short of expectations.
Encourage your college-aged kids to keep their costs down and live on the cheap. They won’t regret it when they graduate, and you are less likely to see your children boomerang back into your household.
4. Students want the guidance of their parents, not unlimited funding.
The more you can drill into your children the idea that work equals money, the better. There’s no sense in babying them through college by providing unlimited funding.
Remember, your job as a parent is to make sure these last few years in undergraduate college are actually preparing your kids for the real world.
The trick here is to give them enough support to prevent a crash-and-burn scenario, but to also let go of the bicycle so they can learn how to ride through life on their own.
Young college students need the guidance of their parents; don’t let them fool you!
College can be a stressful time and a major life transition. Talk to your kids on a regular basis and be available to give them advice when they need it. Teach them to fish, don’t always give them one.
5. The last thing students need are credit cards.
Please, please, don’t encourage your child to get a credit card. Instead, teach them to spend what they’ve earned using a debit card.
There’s a reason why credit card companies traditionally flocked to campuses nationwide to offer all kinds of free goodies every orientation week. It’s extremely profitable for them to get credit cards in the hands of irresponsible students!
This is exactly why Congress passed legislation preventing credit card issuers from giving away freebies on college campuses in exchange for credit card applications. It was a predatory practice. (Now, you’ll have to co-sign with your kids until they’re 21 unless they can prove they have income.)
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Are you a parent of college students? What are your tips? Leave a comment below!