The start of a new year might seem like a weird time to make resolutions for a college student. You’re not at the beginning of the school year; you’re at the midway point, continuing the momentum you started in the fall semester.
But think about how that makes this — the present — the perfect time to make some New Year’s resolutions.
It’s a time to look back on where you’ve been, where you’d like to be, and what you’d like to accomplish. Here are some ideas to get you started, from freshmen to seniors, undergrad to graduate students.
1. Go to class more
There’s always that one class where your professor never takes attendance, the notes are posted online, and the exams are open-book. But the whole point of going to college is to be present at your classes and be part of the learning experience, not to take shortcuts.
Think about your tuition and student loans — that’s a lot of money to pay just to show up in class infrequently. Regular attendance will show in your mastery of the subject matter compared to attending class passively.
2. Ramp up your scholarship search
You may know that scholarships can help you save money on college costs and minimize student loan debt.
While it’s the rare student who gets that full-ride scholarship without owing any lenders a dime, it’s also commonplace to apply to and be granted several smaller scholarships that can together lessen your financial burden.
So why aren’t you applying for more awards? One of many scholarship myths might be holding you back. My grades aren’t good enough, you might say to yourself, the student pool is too competitive or saturated with applicants, or it’s just too time consuming.
But if you don’t apply, you’ll never know if you could get free money. Do away with those self-defeating thoughts. Resolve this year to devote more time for scholarship hunting and applying.
3. Fill out your FAFSA as early as possible
After scholarships, make another financial aid resolution by promising to fill out and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you can.
The FAFSA deadline varies by state, so don’t wait until the last minute to get started. Begin now and get a head start without needing to scramble for the necessary documentation. You’ll need your previous year’s tax returns, your Social Security number, plus other information.
Apply regardless of your financial situation, and make sure to confirm the amount you’ve been granted before taking out any student loans. Taking care of your FAFSA, a critical step in saving money on college, is like studying for a major exam. The earlier you start, the more prepared you’ll be.
4. Keep your body and mind fit and well-rested
Late-night cramming can keep you from getting enough shuteye, and eating too much takeout during said cramming sessions won’t make you feel any better.
Make it a resolution this year to make some healthier choices. Schedule your time to fit in a few workout sessions at your campus gym. If pressed for time during finals or busy periods, even a quick lap around campus is enough to raise your endorphins and get your blood flowing. Skip the takeout and make healthier choices at the dining hall.
Treat getting more sleep like you would making a budget or scheduling your classes: Plan specific hours in the evening when you must hit the hay. Even if you don’t manage exactly eight hours of sleep each night, that’s OK.
Being well-rested, well-fed, and fit will help your mood, energy, and concentration, all important qualities every college student needs to face the day ahead.
5. Get a side hustle
A 15- or 18-credit semester course load leaves little room for much of anything outside of class, much less a part-time job or opportunity to earn money. The best part about picking up a side hustle as a way to earn some extra cash is that you can squeeze a few hours into your schedule at just about any time.
The choices are limitless. There are side gigs for extroverts, jobs for introverts, and opportunities that almost anyone can take advantage of — everything from being an Uber driver to selling your unwanted stuff or tutoring.
You don’t need to pick just one. Your side hustles may vary from week to week or month to month as your schedule permits. Resolving to take on a side hustle is the smart way to make some money, network, and diversify your skills.
6. Save with a goal in mind
Saving money for a college student can be a difficult New Year’s resolution to make when you’re short on finances and pressed for time to earn more. Rather than saving a few dollars here and there without keeping track, make a realistic goal of how much you’d like to save and find a way to get there.
Will you need to spend less on discretionary purchases, like eating out? Can you limit other spending choices, like finding a more affordable cell phone plan? What about saving your earnings in a high-yield deposit account? Using your credit card less?
Clearly define what it will take to reach your financial goals and make them identity-based. For instance, if you’re in debt, your financial resolution may be to work towards paying down your student loans as efficiently as possible, like freeing up money to make larger repayments to your lenders.
Like all your resolutions, committing yourself to the above ideas — and coming up with new ones unique and important to you — can make this the year you make a big change in your life for 2017 and beyond.
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