Beginning one’s freshman year of college can be both exciting and daunting. It is the time that many high school graduates dreamed of. It is also that time where many parents are fretted with uneasiness about releasing the rein to freedom and trusting that everything they have taught you would take root. While it is true that it is a period of forming new friendships and bonding with roommates and faculty, freshmen will also have to navigate a whole new way of trying to stay focused academically and being financially sound. Maintaining a good balance inside and outside the classroom is key because the taste of newfound freedom feels euphoric, it also comes teeming with mistakes; one that can be filled with high stress levels, poor academic performance and mental and financial upheavals.
Full awareness of these possible stumbling blocks is paramount to navigating the ebb and flow of this new experience and turning it into a successful one. Getting into the stressed zone can creep up on you unexpectedly and easily, as it is often camouflaged in a feel-good experience. For example, that party that ran late that you just couldn’t miss. The alarm goes off and you are convinced that you just went to bed a few minutes ago. Chances are you probably just did! What follows next is the almost uncontrollable urge to skip class, especially now that the balance of parents are no longer around to help you stay accountable for your actions. This can trickle down into other facets that can railroad your success – the kind that can further lead to poor academic planning, lack of proper time management and procrastination. These elements, when embraced from a more positive angle, along with a keen eye for your finances all become crucial in keeping you on top of your game.
Proper self-discipline to avoid falling prey to the above elements and keeping your financial health in top gear can make for a smooth ride for a freshman. College freshman often tend to overspend in their first year – falling victims to the allure of freedom and of being away from home. Avoid the typical financial mistakes. Be sure to make and follow a budget as college comes with a cost. It is important to check to see if your campus has a financial literacy program and get enrolled. Also, avoid living above your means – it is okay to say no to that “let’s do dinner” invite once in a while. Be cautious with your spending habits when it comes to credit cards as it comes with a risk as well. Even though this is seen as a time of independence, it would be a wise move to consider becoming an authorized user on your parents’ cards, or search for cards with low spending limits as a way of building good credit for future purchases.
As you step into this new experience as a college freshman, it is going to take a level of commitment, but it is achievable and the payout would be well worth it!
Nathaniel N. Williams, Sr.