This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure for more info
Personal Finance is a subject which is not talked about enough in college; students graduate unprepared and are hit with money issues they didn’t even see coming (I actually have to pay back my education???). And that’s simply because we don’t have financial education in the curriculum.
So I went on Tumblr and asked 42 students what exact areas of personal finance do they wish they knew more about. Although some answers won’t surprise you, the general trend might. That’s why I ask you not to read each answer (although feel free to do so), but to skim the page noticing the words in bold.
I asked these 42 awesome students this exact question:
What do you, as a college student, wish you knew more about in terms of money and finance?
…here are their answers:
Alice Young: Whenever I have any doubts on money for example taxes etc and have tried asking my bank, their attitude has often been that I’m just a student and I never seem to get a full answer to a question I ask. I am clueless about most things on the finance side, I guess we aren’t told much about it at university and I always think I’ll learn things as and when I need to, really.
Adult Talk: I definitely would say that I wish I knew more about credit cards before coming in to college because I had to spend hours doing research before I applied for a credit card. I didn’t know anything about the interest rate, when you were charged for interest, how much you started with, etc. because my mom never had a credit card. What I wish I knew more about now would be student loans because I’ve never taken out one and if I need to in the future I’ll have to speak to a financial adviser and do research again.
Ampersand-study: I’d really like to learn more about taxes, it’s ridiculous how little is said about them at school. And maybe finances related to work? Stuff like different key terms, budgeting, different types of bank accounts, a bit of student finance…
Seachellstudies: I wish I knew more about banks, credit cards and paying for stuff more. Every time I want to purchase something I have trouble because im very unfamiliar with these financial stuff
Crispacademic: I wish I knew more about ways to make money without working corporate and as a full time student. Does taking paid surveys pay off? Should i think about opening a mini business? What are ways i can earn some side money without killing myself with stress?
Stuuuuuuddyyy: TAXES, I have no idea how they operate. And I’m pretty sure my previous employer was doing me out of money for this exact reason.
Studysydney: So for me, I wish I knew more about how a student loan will impact me financially in the future, for example will it affect me getting a mortgage? A car? I’m worried how a large debt may prevent me from having these things. I also worry about how I can budget and how much I will need to survive at university.
Triana-studies: For me personally, it would definitely be how credit works and credit cards. Students aren’t taught about the basics of finance unless they start taking a course on it and we college students are smack in the middle of it all, what with getting our first debut and credit cards and taking student loans. But i would love to see more info on credit as it is so important for young people to start establishing credit as soon as they can and it smart ways.
Istudiously: So i would say what I wish I knew more about (although i have learned by doing haha) is like paying bills and writing checks and like opening a bank account and all that stuff, we never learned about stuff like this in school :/
Neuroticmedblr: I honestly wish I knew more about the different types of student loans and repayment options back in undergrad lol. Good luck with your mega post!
Optomstudies: I guess basic accounting? Like making sure accounts check out and double entry?
Samstudygram: budgeting: going from being completely dependent on my parents’ funds to being pretty much financially independent was like a shock. i realized that i had no idea whatsoever how to decide how much i should be spending on groceries, toiletries, clothes, etc. and i learned the hard way that trying to figure out your personal finances once you’re already on your own is tough. figure out how much money you have (as well as your income if you’re going to have a job or be getting financial support from your family) and figure out how much you will allow yourself to spend on groceries, toiletries, gas, discretionary things (like clothes and eating out), as well as how much you need to be saving.
Sweaters-tea-studying: But still I try my best to save where I can and I wish I knew more methods of saving money and financial tips from people, and for school to really educate younger students how to manage money wisely. My parents had always dealt with managing the money so as a college student, fresh out of home, I do find myself spending money a little bit overboard sometimes. I struggle to use money in a stable way and in a wise way without kind of yoyo-ing around, spending it on shopping and then skipping meals to make up for it.
whenstudyblooms: I think that being frugal is important but it’s very easy to forget about saving money. Especially when hs students are preparing for college; not only do they have to prep academically but also financially. I’m not an expert with the financial aspect, so I would like to know the best way to balance money between spending on different things when I get into college.
notebooks-are-my-bestfriend: and to answer your question, I would say the hardest part is budgeting. In the UK, the student loan comes through according to the universities semester/term and once the loan is deposited in the bank account, it is so easy to spend it on stuff you don’t need. So, I would say that hardest part financially is budgeting and not knowing what to do with big sums of money.
studying-minerva: Taxes, Credit Cards, Managing savings, and how to get the most out of your budget.
warmhealer: I guess I would say taxes? I think that’s something that is never explained in an accessible way.
merostudies: I don’t know enough about taxes (specifically, what is the limit one can make and still get all of their taxes returned; also, how tf do you fill out Turbo Tax). My student loans have been fairly straightforward, but my parents figured that out and explained it to me and we didn’t have to take out much so it’s been fine. For credit cards, I’ve also been good. So I guess mostly taxes are the confusing part to me, but overall I can’t say I have a lot of experience in anything since my parents were a huge help.
biologee: i think that what i struggled with the most was with having to take out a loan. i didn’t feel as if i’d been prepared for this since i knew nothing about the different types of loans and which one was better for what i wanted and the lifestyle i was looking for. i remember feeling super overwhelmed when i first started researching, and i wished somebody would have told me beforehand what to look for or even what most of the words i was reading meant. the other thing was preparing an actual budget after receiving my loan. i was living by myself for the first time so i had to factor in rent, food, water and energy, everything! so balancing that with how much money i could spend on my studies and on myself was a bit rough for me in the beginning (and sometimes still).
badasstudies: I wish there was more open information and education in schools about funding and how to approach it because it’s scary.
bokuto-studying: Good evening! I’m from Belarus and I would be interested to know about taxes in other countries
futuredentist: I’d probably say that I wish i knew more about all the bursaries available from universities to help with financial difficulty etc. A lot of the time, students aren’t aware of the financial help available to them and they end up struggling a lot.
studyingbackthen: I wish I’d known more about how UK student loans affect your financial future. Students with loans are finding that they can’t get mortgages and the like despite assurances that student loans wouldn’t affect this. It wouldn’t have altered my decision to go to uni but students need to be made aware of the reality of £50k of debt and have the chance to seek other sources of financial support through college.
Sapphire-studies: to have a student budget planner which lets you know everything you may possibly have to pay for so its less unknown what your costs will be when you start. let you know you’ll need to put down a deposit when you start renting somewhere, and that you may have to account for formals and buying presents and other little things you forget about and add up to a lot.
studyelement: Mainly I wish there was a one-credit course, or some sort of seminar explaining exactly how your student loans work, and what will happen after college. At the moment, students are taking out large loans and not realizing the consequences or how to prepare to pay these loans once they leave college.
Isabella-study: I think students should know more about term deposits.
Nightlystudying: What I struggle most with is probably taxes, medical costs and insurance costs (as well as food heh). I especially wish I would have known more about all the different kinds of insurances and which ones I really need!
Universtudy: I definitely would choose how to make investments (RRSPs, etc.) because it’s a big part of planning for the future, but you need certain skills to invest wisely and not everyone has those skills, so it’s hard to learn and plan for!
Overworker: anything to do with taxes would be useful-how to pay, which ones you need to pay etc. But also stuff about investing/saving, what’s the safest way to invest or keep money if you’re trying to save, what’s risky place to keep your money.
lillastudies: I really wish that there was some basic education about how student loans work and how you will be paying them back, not to mention how to take advantage of them in the best/most efficient way… because when you’re new to student loans, the whole process can be super confusing and way more stressful than it has tonne!! Also, some sort of education around credit cards and how they work would be great too, because it’s not necessarily common knowledge…
rowanstudysspace: I wish I knew more about student bank accounts and student overdraft actually. Also general stuff about loans, but I guess it’s different for everyone from different countries?
sophocused: I’m most worried I’ll be clueless about taxes when the time comes though
koko-studies: I guess learning about taxes a little bit more can be useful. I think it will be particularly useful for students in Canada because one of my friends studies there and she has to calculate her taxes. I think students should know how to manage their loans.
danceractorplumber: I noticed that people usually don’t know about available scholarships and financial help programs. This probably falls under student loans, but in my country college is free, so idk. But as an art student – I need to know how to ask different organisations and foundations for funds for my projects. You know, how to write an application, ask professors for recommendations and whom to ask, for how much. It can be very complicated.
study-by-heart: I think the most interesting thing about finance and beeing a student is, how to set up a decent budget for yourself and to develop some strategies in order to save some coins.
motivatemycollegelife: How can I save money? What are the things that I buy but are unnecessary? How can I control my income without wasting it?
quaintstudies: i think i would love to know more about investements & stocks, and how to plan my savings for the long run
just-refuse-to-be-stopped: I wish I knew how damaged my credit score would become. I never realized it would affect my day to day life this much in the near future. But also to try to give when you’re been given. Don’t let that initial fear of seeing the numbers make you question. It only matters if you’re happy with what you’re working towards.
wanderluststudyblr: It would be nice if people told us about Taxes – what, how, why, credit cards in regards to HOW EXACTLY do they work (and how to not be broke and not get in trouble w/the bank), and about Student Loans!! Loans are something like, “alright, I know it’s a THING, but HOW do they work?”, like, how long they usually take to pay off (it depends on the money, yeah, but we have little to no conversations about them!), how much interest can pile up, how long you should pay them off in – to save money and stuff. I think student loans are the thing that really isn’t talked about – and I know little to nothing about.
thefashionableintrovert: I think what I wish I had known more about is budgeting for a side-hustle or job and creating invoices and clear payment plans as an entrepreneur for clients/customers. For example if I do graphic design for a small business how will I go about charging? Per-Project or per hour.
studydriven: Honestly everything! I know next to nothing about finance except that college is expensive and taxes are a thing. I should probably take an online finance course or something before I leave home haha.
S-u-u-n-y-blr: I wish I knew more about taxes. I still don’t know how to properly file them and have my dad do them. I was taught how to balance a checkbook in high school but not how to do taxes!
Do you know how many times the word ‘taxes’ appears? 18 times. And ‘student loans’? Or ‘budgeting’? I haven’t counted but I know it’s a lot.
It genuinely pains me to see how badly the schools educate us on money, one of the biggest factors of our lives. We work for money, we spend our money, we live on our money. And yet most of us have no idea how to manage it!
If you’re a college student, understanding the importance of being financially literate will help you manage your debt, save and earn money and learn how to reach financial freedom, in other words be able to do what you enjoy. And it all starts with financial education.
The real question then becomes: how do I financially educate myself? Well, fret not, as I have pitched in and created this MEGA Personal Finance Resource Pack for college students wanting answers to all their finance questions. It’s a huge compilation of content ranging from understanding taxes (about time) to inspiring student debt success stories.
All you have to do: enter your email below and voila, you have THE guide to starting your financial education, aka your path to freedom. (Oh and the Resource Pack has resources for both UK and US students :))
Some of the students I asked also pitched in with some advice they’d give to fellow students going through college. I thought it would be great to share here:
Adult Talk: A piece of financial advice I’d like to give: apply for all the scholarships and the FAFSA as soon as you can. I didn’t think I’d ever get enough to cover my expenses but I did. It’s super important that you apply for anything you can and as soon as you can.
Triana-studies: A small way for an example would be to make your big purchases for school, like all of your text books, with a credit card. You use those expenses from school to slowly build some good credit.
- if you don’t start building your credit early, you’ll have a hard time later on because of a low credit score. so start sooner rather than later and just get a card from your bank with a relatively low max. try and stay below 20% of it’s max and treat it as a debit card (only spend what you KNOW you have. don’t start accumulating debt because you have to pay it eventually). this will help you get a jump start on your credit score.
- paying for college: student loans, scholarships, fafsa, it’s all a lot to take in. if you can, figure it out before your first bill comes in. ask a parent or a school counselor to help run you through everything because there’s a LOT.
- know how your college will want payments. some colleges split the cost of tuition up over the whole semester so you owe about $2,000 per month, while others want all $10,000 (or however much tuition is) all in august. also find out if your college can set up a payment plan to help slow things down for you if you need to.
- the sooner you start saving, the better. not just for college, but for living. the first time i was on my own and went grocery shopping, when i saw my total on the register i bursted into tears. i knew food was expensive but not this expensive. if you start saving now, you’ll be able to have money for necessities and maybe even the occasional chipotle. also save for emergencies. once i figured out my budgeting i felt confident in my finances. for once i wasn’t scared to look at my bank account. and then i went out to my car and discovered two parking tickets; and THEY AINT CHEAP. saving money could help you out if you get sick, get a flat tire, get a ticket, if your computer breaks, etc. because IT WILL HAPPEN. so do what you can to be ready.
- scholarships: they can be hard to get. but don’t worry; as you get farther through university there will be more and more scholarship opportunities (and they’ll give you more and more money). if you don’t get any scholarships your first year, don’t worry. it’s not the end of the world. because as long as you keep applying and keep your gpa you qualify for more and more as you get older.
- community college: there’s NO SHAME in starting out at a community college (or even going there for your whole degree). while the education quality may not be up to par with ivy league schools, a credit is a credit and community college can give you a credit for WAY cheaper than a state university.
- don’t stress it. college is expensive. everyone knows that. It sucks that it is, but it’s just our reality. but YOU CAN GET THROUGH IT. there’s scholarships, fafsa, work study, etc. that can all help you out. don’t let financial fears scare you away from getting an education.
As a college student myself, I also get the frustrations of not understanding the financial world. All I know for the moment is we have to keep learning and keep exploring. And then money will stop becoming an issue, it will become an interest, a hobby even.