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College 4 . Us

Plan and act today so you have no regrets tomorrow...

Money Issues

Finding a Bank

In the U.S., banks are licensed on a state-by-state basis, and so the bank your parents use may not be available at your college neighborhood.  So don't rush to open an account at home without checking out the availability of branches first.  Transferring money between different banks are very easy nowadays so using different banks is not a major obstacle to money transfer anymore.

Most banks have special account for college students that have low or no minimum balance requirements, fees, and extra conveniences.  But you are not required to open such accounts.  Compare your usage and decide what's the best deal for you.

In college, you are much more likely to withdraw money than to deposit money, and so you want to pay attention to the locations of ATMs.  For safety reasons, you want to know which banks' ATMs are on campus and in safer locations.  Many banks have contracts with retailers so they always have an ATM at specific stores (e.g., Citibank ATMs at 7-Elevens).  So research online before opening up an account.

Getting a Credit Card

If you think you can be financially responsible, then a credit card may be OK for you. Otherwise, skip this section please!  Many college students misuse credit cards and dig themselves into a huge hole that takes years to fill!

Getting the very first credit card is hard because you don't have a credit history.  There are, however, two guaranteed ways to get your first credit card and build up your credit history.  First is the credit cards that your bank offers.  In fact, this is likely something that the banks will ask you when you open an account nowadays.  They want to sell you a comprehensive package because that makes you less likely to switch to another bank in the future.

The second source is a credit card company affiliated with your school.  They may be a bit tougher to get than the one from your bank, but normally they don't turn anyone down unless they see a bad mark on your credit report.

Finding a Job

If you get Work Study where government subsidizes your wages, go to the school’s career center early and start calling those Work Study-eligible employers.  The better-paying work study jobs are taken very quickly.  Work Study does not limit the wage you make.  The employer can always pay you a higher wage.  I worked at Harvard Law School for $8.50/hour my freshman year even though Work Study’s starting wage was only $6.xx.  My job was exciting while my friends were stuck cleaning rooms and washing dishes.

Don’t feel bad if you can only find dorm-cleaning or dishwashing jobs in your freshman year.  Good jobs are often taken by upperclassmen because they found them before they left for the summer, or they qualify for research or classroom assistant jobs. Things will get better for you next year!

Making Money

Depending on your school’s policy, it may or may not be legal for you to run a business out of your dorm, even though many big companies started in college dorms (e.g., Facebook and Yahoo!).  The way around this is to get a PO Box or have business-related correspondence sent to your parents’ house.  Nowadays many things are done over the Internet so the amount of mail correspondence should be low anyway.

What can you do to make money?  Internet has opened many doors for many people.  It may take nothing more than a computer and a bit of time.  E-commerce via eBay and Amazon is one possibility, but the key is volume -- do you generate enough business so you are profitable and worth the time you spent on it?  If you find a niche product that has a big market, try it.  If you can do it without investing in inventories, even better. You can utilize shopping cart systems such as PayPal to manage your “store” and receive payments.

If you have unique skills, you may be able to make more money faster than your friends can.  A friend of mine told me about a friend of his who twists balloons at parties, and taught his kids the same skills.  Those kids twists balloons at parties on weekends when they went to college, and paid for their college education that way.  Each party can pay hundreds of dollars, depending on the skills and length of the event.  That sure beats washing dishes for $8/hour!

Many of you have valuable computer skills without even knowing it.  Social media is a big thing now and many companies want people to manage their social media campaigns.  Just learn how Facebook really works and learn about the plugins that you can buy, then you are in business.  Also learn website creation tools such as WordPress and Joomla that do not really involve a lot of programming.  You can be managing websites for several businesses and get monthly compensation for doing so.

If you can create original content (e.g., like this very site) or aggregate useful content from others, then you can run advertisements such as the big Google AdSense on the upper right-hand corner of this page, or affiliate banners like those to the right.  The more people that visit your site, the higher the chance they’ll click on those ads and buy something from there.

Next: Other Options / Returning to School