How to Reduce Financial Stress in CollegeOctober 13, 2022
Last Updated on March 14, 2023
When it comes to stress in college, your coursework and class schedule are only half the battle. For many college students, money is a major stressor. According to the American College Health Association’s 2022 National College Health Assessment, nearly half — 46.8% — of responding college students said they had problems or challenges with their finances.
If you’re worried about money, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Financial stress can affect your academic performance or mental and physical health. But there are ways to manage your money, so it doesn’t have to be such a burden.
Learn about financial stress in college students and what you can do to reduce that anxiety.
What Causes Financial Stress in College Students?
College may seem like a carefree experience for some. But for many students, financial stress is a serious problem. The cost of tuition, books, and living expenses can be overwhelming. Even college meal plans can be expensive, making it difficult to make ends meet.
If you went to college right after graduating high school, this is likely the first time you’ve been solely responsible for managing your money. If you don’t have strong financial management skills, that’s a recipe for disaster.
How to Deal With Financial Stress As a Student
Learning how to deal with financial stress in college is crucial for your success before and after graduation. To better manage your money and limit stressors, follow these tips:
1. Learn the Basics of Personal Finance
If you haven’t managed money before, college can be a crash course in financial responsibility. Many students are in debt because they don’t understand how credit cards work or may overdraw their bank accounts.
Learning the fundamentals of personal finance can help you feel more empowered and knowledgeable, preventing those issues from happening. There’s no need to spend more money; there are free financial education resources that can help:
- U.S. Department of Education: The government offers a variety of free resources for students, including information for those preparing for college. These are designed to help minimize financial stress for college students and set them on the path to success.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Another government resource designed to protect and educate consumers is the CFPB. It has a special page of resources for teenagers and young adults to learn about wise money management.
- College programs: Some schools offer their own financial literacy programs for enrolled college students. Middle Tennessee State University has a financial literacy section on its site. Besides videos and informational articles, the school hosts events and presentations. Check your college to see if similar programs are available.
2. Create a Budget
Once you know the basics, you can create a simple college budget. This will help you understand how much money you have coming in and where that money needs to go.
To start, sit down and list all of your sources of income, including:
- Student loans
- Scholarships or grants
- Income from part-time jobs
- Gifts or support from family or friends
Then, list your expenses, including:
- Tuition and fees
- Books and supplies
- Rent and utilities
- Cell phone plans
- Any extras
If your expenses are more than your income, you’ll need to find ways to cut back or increase your income.
3. Contact Your School’s Financial Aid Office
If you’re struggling to pay for college, your school’s financial aid office may be able to help. The financial aid office can provide more information about the types of support you may qualify for, including scholarships, grants, loans, and more.
4. Reach Out to Student Services
In addition to speaking with your school’s financial aid office, be sure to contact the college’s student services team if you need additional assistance. Many schools have a department focused on providing resources for financially struggling students. For example, the University of South Florida has a campus food pantry, and many colleges are beginning to offer food banks for qualifying students.
5. Visit Counseling Services
Financial stress can be hard on your physical and mental health. If you feel overwhelmed or depressed, make an appointment with your college’s counseling or health services department. The staff can provide support and connect you to mental health resources. You can also contact 2-1-1 to find free or low-cost mental health services in your area.
6. Consider Part-Time Jobs or Side Hustles
Although finding extra time in college can be difficult, bringing in even a small amount of income can help relieve some of your financial stress. If you can work a few hours per week, that income can give you a financial cushion for emergencies or unexpected expenses. With today’s apps and technology, you can find a side hustle or part-time job that fits your schedule and interests — and you don’t even have to leave your dorm room to earn money. You will have to file taxes on your side hustle if you make a certain amount.
7. Explore Other Financial Aid Options
If you’ve maxed out your available institutional and federal aid, you may be able to find third-party scholarships and grants through services like the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop. And if you need to take out additional student loans, you can compare private student lenders online.
Managing Your Money
Financial stress in college students is incredibly common. While coping with financial stressors can be daunting, there are several resources and tools available to help reduce the pressure. Practicing creating a budget and reaching out for help are excellent places to start, and you may be eligible for financial aid or other campus resources to help you get on your feet.