DENTON (UNT), Texas — The fall semester is right around the corner, and incoming college students will be looking for ways to pay for school and fund their lifestyles. Paul Goebel, director of the Student Money Management Center at the University of North Texas, shares steps to take to avoid the most common money pitfalls that students make while they're in college:
- Make a financial plan. It is important for students and their families to create a spending plan for each semester. First, figure out the cost of attendance – (students can use the UNT formula or tuition calculator) – and then add any other living or lifestyle costs. Students should then look at funding options and plan how those costs will be covered. The UNT Student Money Management Center offers an online cash course to help students learn how to pay for school, save money, budget and juggle working and going to school at the same time. At the end of each semester, a student's top financial priority is to ensure that their student account is $0, meaning that they don't have any debt obligations to the university.
- Focus on both short-term and long-term needs. Many students focus only on their immediate spending needs rather than looking at the big picture. For example, students living at home or in a dorm may not need money for rent or food. However, a part-time job can help students save money and help offset costs, when groceries and rent become regular expenses. Students can look for on- and off-campus jobs and paid internships by visiting the university's Eagle Careers, a job posting system for students. Additionally, students' main focus should be getting good grades and maintaining their GPA so they can keep scholarships and do well in school – which will make it easier to find a well-paying job in the future.
- Take out only the amount of loans necessary. It can be tempting to take out the maximum amount of loans offered each semester; however, students should take out only the amount needed. Eventually loans have to be paid back, so being conservative in the short term will help keep student loan debt manageable in the long term. Students should also take advantage of scholarships and grants, which don't have to be paid back, and remember to apply each semester. Students can find eligible scholarships and fill out the General Scholarship Application each year.
- Live within means. Students considering signing a lease on a new apartment or house or joining an organization on campus should factor in any fees. Students should then analyze their financial spending plan and determine whether extra expenses can fit into their current budget. It's also imperative to have a good balance between your abilities and entertainment/lifestyle choices.
- Don't neglect free resources at UNT. UNT offers many resources to students that are covered as part of their tuition and fees. The UNT Student Money Management Center offers free coaching and personal financial consulting and planning services to UNT students. Other resources include Student Legal Services, Counseling and Testing Services and UNT Housing. These services can help students with legal assistance, counseling or alternative housing options. UNT also offers transportation for students who live near campus and don't have a car or a parking permit. Information about bus routes and schedules can be found online.