I was inspired by Earnest, a company providing a better way for students & grads to refinance student loans to share a letter to myself. This came in such a great time considering I just completed my fourth year of college last week. With everything hitting so close to home, I hope this advice and their blog can be a helpful guide to those who may need it.
I know that you are embarking on your journey to college and adulthood which is a crucial time in your life. You’ll be transitioning from home, meeting new friends, and most importantly stepping out of your comfort zone. College provides a lot of opportunities for improvement and you should take advantage of each available opportunity. Nothing can prevent you from exceeding except yourself; friends, family, and whomever else shouldn’t determine your future for you. During these times your peers will explore their talents and will delve into things that can be beneficial to their future careers. If you are unsure of what you want to do then you should also explore; whether it’s photography, activism, blogging, becoming a YouTuber or creating/selling art (t-shirts, paintings, etc.) then you should give it a try!
Then there are so many other things you must consider when attending college like managing your finances, maintaining your friendships (and sanity), staying organized and how you’ll be paying for your education.
In some cases, the student doesn’t have to keep a close eye on their finances or financial aid because everything is paid for by their parents – which is amazing – but if that isn’t your case you’ll have more work to do. Let’s talk FAFSA and scholarships… FAFSA known as but not commonly referred to as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is one of the biggest pains in the behind at the end of the school year. To complete your FAFSA you must have your tax forms, student/parent pins, and other critical information to successfully file for your Student Aid; if you aren’t organized it will take way longer to finish this task. Also, you should do your FAFSA as soon as it opens because there is no reason to burden yourself if you don’t have to, and this is coming from someone who still procrastinates each year. I will say that I’ve learned from my mistakes enough to know better but doing better is what matters. And I haven’t even discussed what you’ll have to do to pay those loans off after graduating… I’ll just take this one step at a time. Also, you should apply for as many scholarships as possible they don’t have to specifically cater to yourself but if you do well enough you could qualify for it. Getting scholarships will prevent you from needed and having to pay as much money back to Sallie Mae. My senior year of high school I participated in a scholarship pageant with a sorority where the money I raised went to my first year of college which really helped because I didn’t have to worry about where I’d be getting that money from if something happened with my financial aid. One more thing, don’t be lax with your financial aid office at your university! When you call and don’t get an answer, send an email; if you don’t get a response then go to their office. Make sure your ducks are in a neat orderly row before you get on campus.
Since I already mentioned financial aid I thought I’d mention finances next. Get your coins and save them. Clip coupons, utilize sales, and learn about specials at the places you love (ex: movies, bowling alleys). I am one of those people who enjoy having a good time and I don’t mind spending money but there are times to be wise about your spending habits. Most schools hold events for students to attend for free or at a discounted price so if you’re interested GO. You should also know other ways to make money if you aren’t employed: you can sell clothing on Poshmark or places like Plato’s Closet, you can do hair (if you’re good), or you can even charge to do makeup for special events. That will build your portfolio, give you experience and you’ll be able have extra spending money. The things I mentioned don’t even touch the wide scope of ‘hustles’ you can have. Another thing that will help you build on a budget is Dollar Tree, one of my favorite stores. You can find cute decorations for your dorm, cleaning supplies, snacks, books, and so many other great things. Dollar Tree is a Godsend and you will soon find a reason to go there everyday.
Now there’s maintaining friendships, your sanity and staying organized. To stay organized you don’t have to break the bank like some may think. You can get your folders, planners, sticky notes, and everything in-between at Dollar Tree. YouTube and Facebook groups have planning communities where they spend a lot of money on fancy planners and stickers but this isn’t a requirement to keep yourself organized throughout the school year. You can also use apps on your phones to input important upcoming events. It’s so simple but these two things will definitely drain you or at least they drained me – maintaining my sanity and friendships.
To better manage my well-being I had to to take breaks AKA me time to relax, do a DIY spa day and clear my head of whatever was bothering me. I also used a super cute journal I got from TJMaxx as a prayer diary, in it I’d write down my goals, what I’d pray for/prayers, and things I want to work on. I found a lot of cute ideas for this on pinterest but I ended up going with my own format. This really helped because I was able to see everything written out and I felt less overwhelmed. As far as friendships I can only say a few things:
- Do what makes you happy. If you want to do something and your friends don’t then you should step out of your comfort zone and do it anyways. You can make new friends along the way who will like to do similar things
- Take time for yourself and your well being
- Branch out to meet new people. Having a clique or intimate group of friends is cool until something goes wrong..
I hope this letter will be helpful to you on your journey to college and I wish you the best of luck!