The lovely folks at the Office of Student Financial Services just released our financial aid awards, and as seniors, we can rejoice that we will never have to guess our way through a FAFSA application again — please, let us maintain our delusion that we’re not going to grad school for a few more months, friends.
We feel your pain, fellow Hoyas: Filling out financial forms and being a fiscally responsible adult are some of the scariest hurdles on the bumpy road to real adulthood. After all, if you veer off course, there could be real legal consequences. That is, if you are so #blessed to make enough dough that the IRS actually cares.
We’ve all been there. We know what it’s like to have your boss hand you a W-4 on day one of your new job and ask for your I-9 documentation, both of which you had kind of thought were highways. We know what it’s like when it’s finally time to move off campus and you have to Google: “What is the difference between leasing and renting?” We know what it’s like to wonder whether you can even afford to celebrate #WingosWednesday — R.I.P., donate to the GoFundMe.
Just because you had your mom FedEx Express ship your passport for employment eligibility paperwork doesn’t mean you have this whole money thing figured out. Acing microeconomics with that sweet curve doesn’t mean you paid attention to all the flyers in White-Gravenor Hall advertising “Common $ense” workshops about money management. You may consistently pay your credit card bill and rent with alternating paychecks, but do you know how to check your credit score?
As we curse at the Fannie Mae building on our way to underpaid internships, confusing the mortgage lender with its sister Sallie the student loan shark, Wisconsin Avenue seems to have become a metaphor for our flailing subsistence in this post-capitalist apocalypse.
That’s the thing about travelling down any road, though. You’re going to see some new things, and you need to be willing to ask for directions if you get lost along the way. You need to be okay with pulling over and opening Google Maps on a road trip, and you will need to be okay with pulling out your phone to check your bank app to ensure you’re spending money responsibly as an adult. Or, to make sure you have enough to pay for a Dirty Girl Scout at Tombs.
So, ask for directions. If you’re confused about which exits and detours to take on your way to paying off student loans, don’t be afraid to call someone who might have the answer — but maybe don’t text your one business major friend at every sign of a financial confusion roadblock. We promise they didn’t know at some point either, and they’ve probably got some valuable advice. There’s no reason to be embarrassed; the gratuitous number of examples we just provided should prove this s—t is hard.
Just like you would consult Waze to get to your destination, don’t be afraid to use your phone to help with financial questions too. Consult free apps like Mint or You Need a Budget. Consult other online resources like Fed Loan Servicing. The people at the financial services office can actually be lovely; we both got help there at different points when we messed up our CSS profiles. A couple clicks and a quick email or phone call can make personal finance a lot less scary — although unfortunately, dear readers, we can’t technically recommend Seeking Arrangement.
There’s a student advantage discount you can add to your GoCard. Maybe actually go to a Common $ense workshop. Your credit score? How about you check that, using resources like this.
With money, it can seem like others understand everything already, and so you should figure it all out by yourself too. That girl from your history class already signed her lease for senior year. That GU Grilling Society guy was talking about getting a 401K from his post-grad job. But money management doesn’t have to be a solo experience. Like the best road trips, figuring out your finances in college and post-grad is much more fun if you’ve got a friend, or even an app, navigating in the passenger seat.