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5 financial to-do’s for higher education

Whether you’re going into the first or final year, it’s critical to stay financially stress-free. Here’s a list of financial to-do’s, allowing you to focus on school and not stress about money.

  1. Get a handle on this year’s expenses and sources of funds

Students and parents are often surprised that tuition only makes up about 30% of the average student’s expenses for a year of school. It’s everything else, from food, lodging, and transportation that pile up and create financial stress.

Use the Ways to Pay for School budgeting worksheet to capture the most common expenses, as well as those often forgotten about. You can use a downloadable excel worksheet or check out the PDF!

If you’re getting help from family, speakwith them about finances. It’s important, albeit a possibly uncomfortable conversation about who is paying for what (e.g. tuition, food, late-night Ubers). And how funds will be provided (e.g. lump sum, as needed, or a monthly amount). Knowing who pays for what and how it’s received will reduce anxiety and potential financial surprises.

Several sources of funds are available, including entrance awards, scholarships, bursaries, and even loyalty points from memberships and credit cards. You’ll find suggestions on where to look for these other sources in the Ways to Pay for School budgeting worksheet.

1. Create a budget

The money in your bank at the beginning of the term may seem like a lot, but it’s shocking how quickly little expenses can deplete your account. There’s an excel version of the Ways to Pay for School worksheet, which can be edited to suit your needs—a weekly or monthly budget will help you better track your spending.

Life happens—and unexpected expenses will crop up, but with a budget, you’ll have a much better handle on where you might have funding gaps.

2. Know when your bills are due and how to access them

If you’re paying your rent, internet, cell phone, and use a credit card, find out what the payment dates are for each bill and put a reminder in your calendar–for a few days before the due date. Online payments can take 2-5 days to get posted to your account.

Also, make sure you know when your tuition and student fees are due. Some schools don’t send any fee notices out—students must access their student portal to find what’s owing. If you don’t know where to find this information, visit your school’s website and search for “how to pay fees.” Missing payments can result in late fees and/or interest charges – something you just don’t need right now.

Visit our student personal finance guide.

Financial literacy early in life will pay dividends in your future. Learn more with Ratehub's guide to managing your money as a student.

3. Visit your campus financial aid & award office

Financial Aid Officers (FAOs) are campussuperheroes. They spend all day, every day helping students find money to bridge funding gaps — but they only help if they can communicate with you. It’s essential to sign up for their communications.

Here are a few things your campus FAO can help you with:

  • Government student loans:They can show you how to apply, appeal, & repay a loan
  • Bursaries:The office can show you what you’re automatically eligible for or what you need to do to become eligible (e.g. register/apply)
  • Campus work-study:They can help you find excellent jobs on campus. The jobs go quickly, so get in touch before classes start to get the first crack at the opportunities.
  • Scholarships: Most schools have one annual application (often called a “One App”) period. Students can enroll to be automatically considered for scholarships and awards for that school year with a filled out application.
  • Help you get other help you may need. After establishing a relationship with a real live person in the Financial Aid Office, use them. If you find you’ve got an issue you’re unsure where to find answers, an FAO can point you in the right direction. They are a crucial campus hub. FAOs interact with every other administrative office on campus, as well as the academic faculties. They often have great relationships with people or groups off campus too!

4. Expect the unexpected

You can plan until the cows come home, but something can still blindside you financially. It’s 2020—we’ve all experienced money issues first hand.

The great news, though, is there’s more than one way to obtain your education, as we’ve discussed. You can defer for a term, or a year, while you earn extra cash. Alternatively, you can take your courses part-time or one study at a time. Your educational journey doesn’t have to be a sprint; it can be a marathon.

About HigherEdPointsHigherEdPoints allows students to use anyone’s loyalty points to fund tuition and repay student loans. To date, students, parents, friends and employers have converted over 300 million loyalty points into more than $2.3million in tuition and student loan payments. To learn more, visit: