Empowering College Students: A Summer Financial Checklist

Andi Long |

Spring is upon us, and summertime is just around the corner! Some of you are welcoming back your college kids for a well-deserved break. (And you know what that means – shoes left in front of the door, laundry left on the floor, and dishes left in the sink. 😉) Jokes aside, many students and parents use the summer break to reset between the busy school year that has finally come to an end and the upcoming fall semester. This can also be an opportune time to reassess your college student’s financial roadmap, so they - and you - enter the next school year with confidence. Here is our summer checklist of topics to guide meaningful conversations with your child, laying the groundwork for financial empowerment:


  1. Create a Financial Snapshot

It’s not uncommon for college to be a young adult’s first taste of independence – and many are just dipping their toes into the personal finance world. During the semester’s busy schedule of classes, extracurriculars, and exams, your student’s savings account interest rate is likely not at the forefront of their mind. So, creating a snapshot of their financial picture can be an important steppingstone to effectively managing their day-to-day finances. Here’s a list of accounts they may include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Cash balances in apps such as Venmo, CashApp, etc.
  • Credit cards
  • Student loans and other debt obligations
  • 529 accounts and other designated funds for education expenses

From there, consider if there are adjustments that can be made. Small, incremental changes such as these can make a substantial long-term difference:

  • Simplification: Avoid opening too many bank accounts. One checking account to track monthly spending and one savings account to park funds for future expenses and savings goals might get the job done.
  • High Yield Savings: Ensure savings accounts earn 4-5% in interest, annually. 
  • Credit Cards: Pay your credit card balances in full each month. This is an effective way to build credit while avoiding risks associated with accumulating debt.
  1. Track Spending Habits

Budgeting is not for everyone but taking a look under the proverbial hood by reviewing a few months’ bank statements can provide valuable insight into cash flow patterns. Keep an eye out for potential opportunities that could save your college student a few dollars:

  • Bank Account and Credit Card Fees: Many banks and credit card providers offer fee-free options to customers in good standing (no negative balances, late payments, etc.). So, if that minimum checking account balance requirement continues to be a nuisance, check with your bank to see if they have a more appropriate alternative.
  • Monthly Subscriptions: Monthly subscriptions no longer in use, such as streaming services or gym memberships, are often overlooked. Take note of your subscriptions and cancel accounts that you no longer enjoy.
  • Student Discounts: University emails and ID cards can unlock numerous student discounts, from streaming services to food and apparel. Many stores and companies offer savings to students who present their ID cards at the checkout. It can’t hurt to ask!
  • Overspending: It’s easy to lose track of spending at times. Keep tabs on indulgences like takeout and food delivery services. Platforms such as DoorDash and Uber Eats offer convenience but can quickly deplete cash needed for essentials.
  1. Review Education Costs and Funding Strategies

According to the Education Data Initiative, “the average student borrows over $30,000 to pursue a bachelor’s degree.” The notion of traditional-aged students, 18 - 24 years old, taking on that level of debt can seem a bit unsettling; however, it may be unavoidable. Reviewing the cost of their education can better prepare students to monitor their spending and, upon graduation, stick to an effective repayment plan. Here are a few tips for college students to optimize their approach to funding their education:

  • Borrow Wisely: You’re not obligated to take the full amount of the student loans offered to you. Borrow only for expenses you’re not able to cover from savings or cash flow.
  • Forecast Upcoming Costs: Even a rough estimation can help reduce sticker shock when expenses such as tuition, books, rent, etc. come due.
  • Part-Time Employment: Securing a part-time job during the summer or the school year (schedule permitting) is a great way to earn a little extra cash to cushion your savings, offset daily living expenses, and reduce the need for student loans.
  • Explore Scholarships: Research potential scholarship opportunities. The university’s financial aid office and other platforms, like the US Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor websites, can be a good starting point. 

College years can be transformative and thrilling for students and parents, alike. The purpose of the items previously outlined is to encourage candid discussions surrounding the financial responsibilities associated with higher education. Proactively establishing strategies for meeting these obligations allows more freedom to focus on the excitement in this chapter of life. Furthermore, developing positive money management habits early on sets the stage for lifelong financial wellness. If any questions arise while working through this checklist, feel free to reach out - we're here to help every step of the way!