Money Tips for Your First College Semester

Your first semester of college can be an exciting time. A lot will change over the coming months, and adjusting to your new class schedule and workload may be tricky. Your campus resources can help you through the challenges of starting school, and using them can help you save money!

Get to know your campus

From small community colleges to large universities, many campuses offer helpful resources for new and returning students. Even adult students can benefit from campus resources!

You can start by figuring out where all of the following resources are:

  • Financial aid office.
  • Academic advising office.
  • Tutoring services and academic assistance.
  • Libraries.
  • Health services office.
  • Career services office.
  • Dining halls.
  • Fitness centers.

These campus resources exist to help you succeed, and they can help you save a little money along the way!

Financial aid office

At your financial aid office, you can ask trained financial aid officers about scholarships and grant opportunities you may qualify for to find more “free money” and be less dependent on borrowing.

Financial aid officers can also get information on available work-study programs, along with any current student loans you may have or any you are thinking about taking out.

Academic advising office

Your academic advisor can help you map out your college career and find the degree you’re most interested in.

They’ll help put you on track to graduate, and they can even help you make a plan to graduate early if you want to save money on college costs.

Additionally, your advisor can help you figure out what classes to take and when to take them if you’re a working student.

If your school doesn’t have career counselors, your academic advisor may also be able to help guide you through career questions.

Tutoring services and academic assistance

Tutors and other members of your school’s academic support staff are there to help you when you need extra instruction.

If your school provides tutors, use them! They can help you maintain your grades and keep any academic merit scholarships you’ve earned.

Many times, you’ll need to make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) to keep receiving financial aid. In fact, it’s a requirement for federal financial aid.

This means you have to make good enough grades and take enough classes to graduate in an acceptable amount of time, which varies by school.

Your school’s tutors can help ensure that you make satisfactory academic progress, keep receiving your financial aid, and finish college strong!


Books…can be expensive. Knowing where your campus library is can help you save money on books and other required materials for class.

Many times, your library will have rental copies of your classes’ textbooks and the tech you need to complete your coursework. Your library may also have computers and printers you can use.

Still debating whether to buy or rent textbooks? Compare the pros and cons of each option.

Health services office

If you have access to campus health services, use them! It will likely be cheaper to go to a doctor on campus than an outside one.

Many costs of these health services are already covered by your tuition and fees, so it doesn’t make much sense to go elsewhere unless absolutely necessary. Don’t spend more money on something you’ve already paid for!

Career counseling

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t need to think about my career yet. It’s only my first semester! I’ll worry about all that later.”

Think again. While you want to make a smart choice, it’s never too early to start thinking about your career plan in college.

If your school provides career counseling, meeting with a career counselor can help you set your career goals and figure out how to reach them.

Career counselors can help you determine:

  • If your future career will pay enough to cover your living expenses and student loan payments.
  • What degree plan might be a good fit for your goals.
  • What internship opportunities are available to pursue in college.

You may not see the benefits immediately, but getting advice from your career counselors can put you on the right track to the right job later on.

Dining halls

If you have a meal plan, use it. Again: don’t spend money on things you’ve already bought!

Make sure you know about all the dining halls you’re covered by if you purchased a meal plan. Most universities have several dining halls. Knowing which one is closest to you can save both time and money.

Fitness centers

Staying active in college is a great way to be happier and healthier. The stress of classes won’t weigh you down as much, and you’ll have more energy to get your work done.

If your college has a fitness center or gym, use it instead of spending money on an outside gym membership.

Image representing "Know Your Deadlines".

Know your drop deadlines

Sometimes, you register for classes that just don’t end up working out academically or fitting in your schedule.

There are plenty of valid reasons to drop a class. You shouldn’t feel locked in or trapped by a course. If it really isn’t working out, you can fix the problem.

But before you drop a class, talk to your academic advisor. They can help you understand the consequences.

Here are a few things to consider before dropping a class.

The timing of when you drop a class matters

Finishing college according to your plan is important.

Dropping a class can delay your graduation date, so it’s important to consider your plan before you drop.

If you drop a class that is only offered in one semester of the academic year, you may have to stay in college a semester longer.

Additionally, there will be specific drop deadlines to get a full refund. If you drop a class late, you may only receive a partial refund or no refund at all.

If the class you dropped is a required course, you could be paying twice to take that same class later on.

Remember to meet with your academic advisor before dropping a class. They’ll provide information that can help you decide if and when to drop a class.

Dropping a class can affect your full-time status

Each school has its own definition of full time. You usually have to take 12 or more credit hours to be full time.

Some financial aid is also based on your status as a full-time student. If you drop a class it could affect your full-time status.

Talk to your academic advisor or someone in the financial aid office before you drop to make sure you don’t lose any scholarship or grant money.

Before dropping a class to protect your GPA, reach out for help

Some scholarships and grants require you to keep your GPA at a certain level. If you’re struggling with a demanding class, it may be tempting to drop it.

But remember: you’re not alone. You can reach out to your professors and your school’s tutoring resources for help in your classes.

However, if it looks like your GPA might suffer, ask how you can drop a class with the smallest impact to your grade and financial aid.

As always, talk to your academic advisor or your financial aid office before you drop a class.

They’ll help you make sure that dropping a class doesn’t affect any of your scholarships, grants, or other financial aid.