8 Resources to Help Online Students Achieve Financial Wellness
Hi again, Natalie, YOUR social media community manager. Today, I am going to guide you through a few tips to help you achieve financial wellness, including my experiences with funding my college education. I know the stress that can come from taking the leap into funding your educational journey, completing the annual FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or scholarship applications, and then the scariest of it all — repayment!
What is Financial Wellness?
Financial wellness is the process of learning how to manage your finances successfully. Let’s be honest, money plays a critical role in our lives and not having enough can impact your health — both mental and physical — and affect your academic performance. Funding your college education can be stressful, but it’s possible to achieve your academic dreams and still move forward with financial well-being. Creating a budget, keeping track of expenses, and sticking to your budget are important skills to have. I will show you a few tools that can help you achieve financial wellness.
Financial Wellness in College
College students are often subject to significant financial distress, and keeping up with financial responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming, but ignoring them will only increase feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. Believe me, I’ve ignored them, but I always felt so much better when I was in-tune with my financial wellness.
An example of when I ignored my responsibilities was in 2010, when I attended the University of Utah. It was the first time I had completed the FAFSA on my own. I submitted what I thought would be needed, and figured they’d contact me if anything was missing. I started the semester and was about two weeks in when I received a portal message stating that my courses had been canceled due to non-payment. My first thought was, “My parents are going to kill me.” Second, I got mad at the university because they didn’t notify me of any documents or information that was missing. Turns out, they did. I had used a different email address for school-related matters and was not checking it. Being young and naive got me into this mess, and I had to pay the price of a delayed graduation.
I might add, I highly encourage you to borrow the minimum amount — only what you really need. Many students (especially those who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant) will take their stipend and mistakenly spend it on non-educational-related expenses. Not only is this against your lender agreement, but it digs an even deeper financial hole. If you need a laptop, Wi-Fi, or textbooks, great. But spending your money on non-educational expenses (such as travel, entertainment, clothing, etc.) will make your repayment that much more stressful, so please heed my warning.
The Route to Financial Wellness
There are many resources out there, but as with everything in life, it takes effort on your part to use the resources to your advantage. Check out these eight tools and see what works best for you!
1.The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS):
I’ll be honest, throughout my entire college education, I did not know my lender, their contact information, or any other vital information. I am here to introduce you to an easy one-stop-shop for all things loan-related. The NSLDS is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans (FAFSA) and grants so that recipients can access and inquire about their loans and/or grant data. For more information, please visit their website.
2. Non-traditional credits:
This is a huge opportunity to help you use what you already know toward your degree program. This could range anywhere from serving in the United States Armed Forces to knowing a second language. For more information, check out Ashford University’s non-traditional credit options.
3. Personal finance apps:
Budgeting can be tough, but technology is here to change that. Check out these student-focused personal finance apps to help you achieve financial bliss.
4. Student discount tools:
Ashford has made it easy to receive student and alumni discounts. Simply login to the student portal and under Learning Resources (left column), you’ll find the link to Student and Alumni Discounts. Additionally, you can search for student discounts that your local businesses may offer.
5. Scholarships and grants:
Scholarships may not be as out of reach as you may think. Check out Ashford’s Scholarships and Grants to find an opportunity for you.
6. Employer tuition benefit:
Ashford works with your organization to establish reductions and waivers on tuition and other fees. Possible reductions include a tuition grant, technology fee waiver, first course material waiver, and Prior Learning Assessment fee waiver. Employees earn a degree at a reduced cost. Check out our website for more information or call 855.805.6911 to ask if your employer is on the list.
7. Potential transfer credits:
Did you transfer to Ashford and relinquish your previously earned credits due to an outstanding balance? Have you paid that balance off, or do you now have funding to pay it now? Go get those transcripts! Ashford accepts up to 90 transfer credits (which is unheard of, btw). This can reduce your overall cost of your degree AND shorten your program length! It can’t hurt to give your previous school a call to find the details on your file.
8. SMART Track:
Are you thinking of earning your master’s degree? If so, definitely check out Ashford’s SMART Track program. The SMART Track puts you on a faster path to finishing your master’s degree. With SMART Track, you can start taking master’s degree-level courses while earning your bachelor’s degree — giving you a foundation of knowledge, experience, confidence, and financial wellness to carry you through graduate school.
I know this is a lot of information, but the reason that I enjoy being Ashford’s community manager is because I love guiding students through the college experience. I enjoy cheering you on, and providing my past experiences — both good and bad — to help you achieve your goals.
Written by Natalie Mell, Ashford University community manager