Financial Strategies for College Success

Written By: Gigi Graves

As a first-time college student, learning to manage your finances is vital. Here are three tips to help manage your finances and make the most of your college experience.  

  1. Update Your Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) Account Online  

As a high school senior, you applied for the FAFSA using an email address and cell phone number. Suppose you now have a new email address or phone number. In that case, it is critical to update your information on the Federal Student Aid website to receive information about your financial aid from the Department of Education. Remember, your aid must be renewed every year!  

PRO TIP: Save your and your parent’s FSA ID safely. You’ll need this every year to renew and submit the FAFSA form.  

PRO TIP: Encourage your parents to complete their income tax forms quickly. You will need their completed income tax form to renew your FAFSA every year in college.  

PRO TIP: Complete your FAFSA December 2023 for the 2024-2025 school year. By submitting your application early, you might receive funding from the state of Florida on top of federal aid.    

  1. Know What to Look for in Your College Portal 

Become familiar with your college portal and all sources of financial aid each semester.  

PRO TIP: Review financial aid line-by-line to ensure all funding sources are applied to your student account. If you receive a PELL Grant (1), that will appear on one line. Florida Prepaid (2) will show on another line, as will other scholarships you receive.  

PRO TIP: Avoid taking out loans. If you need to take out loans, understand how they work and the repayment terms. In the example below, no loans were taken.  

  1. Plan to Stay Aware and on Track 

If you have attended orientation, selected your classes, and paid for your courses through the PELL Grant, Florida Prepaid, and scholarships, you are expected to start college on the first day of the semester. If something prevents you from attending, notify the college immediately. Without notification, you are responsible for paying tuition and fees and might put financial aid at risk.  

Understand each professor’s expectations by reviewing the class syllabus. Make note of important assignments and test dates. If you feel the class will be challenging, ask the professor for clarification. Seek tutoring services for challenging courses early and often.  

PRO TIP: Be aware of the class Add/Drop period. If you can’t manage a class, you can drop it but only within a specific timeframe. If you do not officially drop the class and stop attending, you will not receive a refund for the class. 

PRO TIP: Time management and organization are essential, especially regarding finances. Make a budget and stick to it!  

The Take Stock in College team is here to help answer questions and overcome challenges so you can make the most of your college experience. We’re here to help you with college, career, and life. 😊