Going to college often means meeting people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Of course, money can be, and probably always will be, a touchy subject. Even among the more or less “broke” college students, it can be awkward when talking about whether or not people have enough money to go out one night, or if they can afford to take a trip to see their friends during the weekend.
Some people may think that higher education is only for the wealthy, when in actuality many students simply can’t afford to get a postsecondary education without some sort of financial help. In fact, the majority do receive some financial aid—about two-thirds of all college students. And socioeconomic diversity, like any form of diversity, only enhances the learning experience by introducing students to differing perspectives and backgrounds.
There are two things college students, whether economically well off or not, should remember: First, never be embarrassed of your situation. There’s no need to be! Colleges offer a number of programs to help pay your way, from payment plans to scholarships and grants to budgeting pamphlets and advice, all so you feel comfortable with your financial situation. Schools have financial aid offices to help students and parents with loans, guide them in applying for financial aid, and provide information families need to help them navigate the process. Some schools also provide work-study, which provides certain students with part-time employment on campus. Some students are able to choose their campus job and some are assigned one, and this allows students to earn money from the school that will be applied towards their tuition. If you’re in need of financial assistance, one great website to check out is the Federal Student Aid website from the U.S. Department of Education. Also, schools are sometimes ranked based on how giving they are with financial aid. InsideCollege.com compiled this list of colleges that meet students’ financial need—most cover all or nearly all of students’ need. It includes Ivy Leaguers like Dartmouth College and Cornell University and non-Ivy League institutions like Emory University and Vassar College.
Second, students need to keep in mind that money situations differ from family to family and person to person; it’s important to not only recognize this but also to be sensitive about it. Students (everyone, really) need to be respectful of others’ financial backgrounds.
When it comes to general finances and day-to-day conversations, college students should remember that money doesn’t need to be a daily topic with friends. Some people may not want to talk about their situations. I know it can be awkward, and I try to avoid those conversations as much as possible! For parents of college students, it’s crucial to talk to your kids about your finances not only so they feel comfortable but also so they understand the situation. That makes it easier to talk about and seek financial aid assistance if necessary.
Need more suggestions on college financial aid? Check out the 12 Most Helpful College Financial Aid Tips post from the 12most.com! It’s helpful to both students and parents, and gives great ideas about applying for financial aid!