Stress is common among college students, but for those relying on a combination of scholarships and student loans to pay for school, the additional stress of navigating the financial aid process can feel unbearable. Some students might feel isolated from their peers, and they may find their financial struggles take a toll on their mental health.
The Ohio State University’s National Student Financial Wellness Study found that 72 percent of college students experience financial stress stemming from the fear of being unable to meet tuition costs (60 percent) and meet monthly expenses (50 percent).
Even more alarming, a large number of college students are housing and food insecure.
Also, 80 percent of working professionals with student loan debt said it is a source of “significant” or “very significant” stress, according to the survey of more than 3,000 Americans conducted online in May.
One of the challenges for college students is that there often are unexpected or unanticipated expenses for textbooks, housing, and things that come up around college life. Many of those students who are most financially stressed may be first-generation college attendees, so they’re not necessarily able to access, or their families don’t have the experience to provide, clear guidance for them.
Here are a few tips to reduce the stress of paying for college:
Choose a college wisely.
Ask psychologists and educators what allows young people to thrive in college and you’ll hear about the match between students and schools. But many teens persist in aiming for elite universities with name recognition.
What does matter, of course, is what students do while in college. Being fully engaged in learning as well as in the campus community provides the most benefits for the money you spend.
Get financially educated and organized.
Being financially literate or “having financial literacy” is not difficult to define. These terms simply mean you have an understanding of basic financial concepts.
Understanding financial basics thus allow you and others to make smarter money choices and are able to be self-sufficient in financial decisions.
That being said, here are some simple ways to help you become financially literate.
- Hit the Books
- Read Magazines and Online Publishers
- Use Financial Management Tools
- Listen to Money Podcasts
- Take a Financial Literacy Course
Advocate for yourself.
The most important thing for those first-gen students is to really not be hesitant about using whatever resources and supports are available on campus. That goes from the bursar’s office and academic advising to counseling services. Use the financial aid people. Don’t hesitate to make it clear when you are struggling and when you need that support; that’s why those offices are there. You need to take the initiative to find help and support.
Find a community.
Experts recommend students struggling with their mental health and with a stressful financial situation try as much as possible to create community through extracurricular activities and groups on campus.
Ask for help.
Student stress is a serious concern among American adults. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed by your debt, consider reaching out to a group or therapist for support. They can’t help you resolve your debt, but they can offer compassion without judgment and help you address related mental health symptoms, enabling you to feel more capable of tackling debt in a productive way.