5 Things Every College Student Should Know How To Do

5 things every college student should know how to do before they graduate!Even though you’ll be a student while attending college, there are still financial tasks every college student should know how to do. In addition to studying, the college years are also time to get acclimated to how the world works.

That brings responsibilities, even if they may be limited at this time. And even if they are, they’ll continue to grow after you graduate, and then you’ll need to apply what you learn about finances now in the real world.

Here are some financial tasks that you should know how to do as a college student . . . .

1Balance a Checking Account

This is probably the most basic financial task you need to know. It’s also important to realize that online banking doesn’t remove the need to perform this task. In fact, in a real way, it’s more important to be able balance your checking account than ever before.

The widespread use of debit cards, automatic debits, and online payments mean that money is going out of your bank account in all different directions. If you forget about an automatic payment, or about a couple of debit card purchases you made, you can easily overdraw your account. And even if you have overdraft protection, this is still not a good habit to get into.

You should know how to balance your checking account on a continuous basis. That means that you will be aware of charges that have been made against your account, or will be coming up soon, even before they appear in your online statement.

The ability to balance a checking account is the foundation of the next financial task you should know how to do . . . .

2Create and Maintain a Budget (Live Within Your Means)

Though you may not be running a household, with all of the expenses that come with it, you do represent a financial unit all by yourself. That being the case, you should have the ability to live within your means, wherever those means are coming from.

Whether you use budgeting software with or a budgeting spreadsheet, you need to come up with some sort of budgeting system that works for you.

The basic point of budgeting is to:

  • Be aware of your income, including how much it is and when it typically arrives
  • Know your expenses – especially recurring payments
  • Balance your income and expenses, and
  • Hopefully, maintain a technique to make sure your expenses don’t outrun your income.

As a college student you may not think that having a budget is important, but it actually is on at least a couple of fronts. First of all, if you have expenses, you need to have a budget – it’s that simple. A budget is a way to manage money and that’s what you’ll be doing, whether the income is from a part-time job, a summer job, your savings, student loans, or money from your parents.

The other compelling reason is that budgeting is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. It’s better to learn it now while your expenses are relatively limited. That will keep you from becoming overwhelmed when you start really needing to budget, and the expenses begin to seriously mount.

3Understand the Basics of Investing

Even if you don’t have any money to invest at all, you should still begin to learn the basics of investing. Some of those basics include:

  • Learning the various investment classes, like stocks, fixed income assets, commodities, and even real estate
  • Understanding the benefits of investing through funds, like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds
  • The basic concept of investment diversification
  • Compounding of investment returns

As soon as you get your first job following graduation, you’ll most likely have the opportunity to begin investing immediately through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. The knowledge that you begin to build now will help prepare you to make important decisions whenever that moment comes.

In addition, learning at least the basics about investing will also help you to appreciate the importance of doing it. And that’s huge, because the sooner you begin saving and investing money, the easier and more successful it will be. If you can begin doing it as soon as you take your first job, you’ll be way ahead of most people.

4Order a Credit Report

If you have even one credit card or loan account, you should develop the ability to order a copy of your credit report at least once each year.

There are at least three reasons for ordering your credit report on a regular basis:

  1. You want to be sure that there’s no negative information on the report that may have been given in error
  2. You should begin monitoring your credit score
  3. It’s a good habit to get into because it will become only more important as you get older and your credit expands.

5Handle a Job Interview

Strictly speaking, handling a job interview is more about a career than it is a financial task. However, given that a career is the key to your financial life, you will need the ability to handle a job interview as a matter of financial survival.

Being able to handle a job interview is particularly important. While you can always hire someone to prepare a professional looking resume for you, you will be on your own when it comes to job interviews. Your resume might get you an interview, but it’s the interview that will determine whether or not you get the job.

It’s that important, and that’s why it’s a skill you need to begin developing and mastering now. It will help you to get jobs that you need while you’re still in school, but it will also be a skill that will help you get a career position, and that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Even if some of these tasks don’t seem to be particularly relevant to you right now, embrace them anyway – they’ll matter soon enough.

Are you a college student? Do you know how to do these financial tasks? Leave a comment!

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  1. Joseph Hogue

    Great recap of the essentials. So important for students to form those good habits early. For many, its the first time they’re financially on their own.

    The hardest thing to do, but the best thing, is to ask for help. Find a financial mentor (doesn’t have to be your parents) that will personally help keep you on track, at least for the first year. After a year of keeping track of your finances, it becomes second nature and those habits are formed. You will thank yourself for the rest of your life.

    • Melody

      Agree. Show me the college student that actively goes looking for help, and I’ll show you a kid that is going to be a great success.

  2. Janice T.

    I have a daughter (first year) attending college and there have been times I have talked to her about her financial responsibilities. Your article has given me yet another set of tools or resource that I can share as you state, “It’s better to learn it now while your expenses are relatively limited” .and, “the sooner you begin saving and investing money, the easier and more successful it will be.”

    Great informative suggestions and easy or simple enough to start to put into action. Thank you.

  3. Trident

    Parents can also have an impact on their grown children’s financial well-being. For example advising them not to apply for high APR credit cards and living within ones means. It’s too easy for a younger person to get carried away with credit card debt making it difficult to get out of the negative.