7 things you can do to avoid student financial stress
Your student loan was just deposited in your account and your balance is at its all-time high. You know you need those funds to last until the end of the semester, but how can you be sure you’re going to make it?
And what if the unexpected happens and you don’t have money to pay the rent? Or if your roommate moves out and leaves you with all the bills?
Getting help before things get out of control is key, says Heather Nally, student advisor with Prospective and Financial Aid Advising. “It’s not unusual for first-year students to find themselves in my office crying because they didn’t realize how much money they actually needed. There are things we can do to help, but we can’t help if you don’t ask.”
Here is some of Heather’s advice:
1. Don’t wait
If you’re at all concerned about your finances, see us before the semester starts or as early in the semester as possible. You don’t want to be worrying about money when you’re studying for exams or trying to finish assignments.
2. Take another look at your loan (or consider getting one)
If you’re having financial difficulty and you haven’t applied for a loan, that’s one of the first places we can start. If you already have a loan, there might be room to request additional funds. Lots of students make mistakes on their applications and don’t get the amount they actually need. It’s more common than you might think.
3. Check out bursaries
Bursaries are a big resource that students don’t often think of. They’re not based on academic performance, but on financial need – and you don’t need to be at the top of the class to qualify for one. Many students don’t take the time to apply because they think they won’t qualify. And just because you applied in the fall and didn’t get funding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply again in the winter. Every year the requirements change and funding goes to the people who need it the most. Best of all, bursaries aren’t loans – you don’t have to pay them back.
4. Build a budget (we know, it sounds boring)
Most first-year students have no idea what their cost of living is – tuition, fees, books, rent, utilities, groceries and entertainment costs all add up. We can help with budgeting and help you figure out how the chunk of money you are getting from student finance can get you through the next four months. We offer one-on-one budgeting to help you figure out how to avoid spending a semester’s worth of money in a single month.
5. Remember: all students are in financial need
You are not alone. Some people are shy or think there’s a stigma attached to being short of funds, but most students are facing the same challenge. Stay positive and make sure you access the services that you are eligible for – that’s why you’re paying your fees. SAMU has a Student Food Bank and a Breakfast Club that are wonderful. Use them if you need them.
6. Ask before you act
If your problems aren’t just financial and you’re struggling academically, talk to a financial aid advisor before you decide to withdraw from a class. Some student financing programs and funding formulas require you to be studying full time and if you withdraw from a class it could affect your funding. Withdrawing may be the right choice, but make sure you get advice before you decide.
7. Christmas gifts are not “reasonable expenses”
It sounds ridiculous, but the biggest issue I see in December is around Christmas gifts. Don’t buy Christmas presents with your student loan money. Student aid does not see that as a reasonable expense.
Want to know more? Drop in or make an appointment at Financial Aid and Admissions Advising Services.
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This story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.