Dear Barb—Dollars for College

Dear Barb:

I began my first year of college in September.  I am about halfway through my first semester, and I’m finding it very difficult.  Not just the studies, but financially I am having a hard time budgeting my money.  I applied for and got student loans and grants, plus my parents gave me a few thousand to help.  I pretty well went through everything.  I have a little bit left, but not enough to get through until my OSAP comes in for next semester.  I haven’t told my parents because they would be so angry with me.  Also, I don’t think I will get all my credits for this semester.  I don’t know what happened I thought I was so prepared and ready for college.  I always did well in school and was on the honor role in grade 12.  I feel like such a failure.  I don’t know what I am going to tell my parents.  I am not sure where to turn for help.  I am lost! Hope you have some advice for me, Alex. 

Hi Jason:

The transition from high school to college or university is not as easy as expected.  I would assume you have spoken to some of your college friends, and many are in a comparable situation.  It is much easier living at home where your parents are doing all the budgeting and taking care of everything and all you have to do is study and have fun with your friends.  However, as you are finding out, this is the time to begin the transition to adulthood.

The most widespread problem among college students is financial stress.  Tuition costs have skyrocketed.  Books and other materials are through the roof.  Also, food costs have increased everywhere, leaving many students having to rely on food banks, or exist on macaroni and cheese, and even Kraft dinner has doubled in price in the last few years.  Obtaining a part-time job would help, but only if you can manage your time effectively.  If you are spending a lot of time partying, that will easily eat up a substantial chunk of your budget and your time.  It is a delicate balancing act that takes time to learn.

My advice is to go to a student advisor and share your story.  Many colleges and universities have support groups for students who are in a similar situation.  It is good that you are realizing your situation early on, therefore you can correct it before it gets too out of hand.  Talk to your parents.  They were young once and may be more understanding than you realize.  Parents can offer years of wisdom, but many young people choose not to listen.  Recognize that currently you need their guidance and assistance.  Writing this email was the first step on the road to a more successful college experience.  Best of luck Alex.