Finance 101 for The College Freshman

Sheryl Walsh



Sheryl Walsh is the Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer and Small Business Banking Officer
with The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod. She lives in Centerville and is looking forward to
sending her final tuition payment this fall.





So, you’re sending your high school graduate off to his or her first year of college. It’s exciting and fraught with emotion. I know because I’ve sent two daughters off – one to UMass Amherst and one to the University of New Hampshire. As our children enter their first phase of real independence, and possibly their first time handling finances on their own, it’s important to send them off with some financial parameters. Here are 4 tips I recommend instilling in your undergrad:

  1. Be smart about credit.

    There will be numerous temptations and offers for new credit cards, many coming with tempting perks geared for the collegiate set. Keep to one emergency credit card with a low credit limit. Have a plan for when it should be used and a plan for making regular payments. Getting into credit trouble now can haunt them years later and cripple important milestones, like buying a first home.

  2. Make a budget and stick to it. 

    Having a monthly plan of what you have and your anticipated expenses will keep you on track. Plug in the categories you spend money on most, including going out to dinner with friends, concert tickets, Uber fares, and even your morning coffees from Starbucks (those add up!). Consider using a budgeting app like Mint or NerdWallet to easily keep track of your spending on your phone. For parents, if you’re supporting your child with spending money, work with him or her on the budget and set a monthly limit for what you’ll provide.

  3. Use your meal plan.

    It’s already paid for, so opt for pizza in the dining hall rather than calling out for delivery. And make sure you know all of the little extras your meal plan may include, like purchases at satellite restaurants or in the bookstore. For the parents, I strongly recommend doing your due diligence when selecting a plan. The options can be dizzying, so read up on them and take advantage of any information sessions offered. It can be tempting to purchase the most lavish, expensive plan, for fear your undergrad will starve, but bigger isn’t always the smart option. You may end up throwing money down the meal-plan-drain.

  4. Protect your valuables.

    College living is a fun, communal, social atmosphere, which is great and should be enjoyed! The downside is that it’s also an environment where valuables can easily be stolen. Be smart about laptops, phones, jewelry and other prized possessions. Lock your dorm room door when you’re going down the hall to visit friends or keep your valuables on you. A stolen laptop is a financial hit for sure, but it will also result in lost productivity, lost homework, potential theft of personal information stored on the hard drive, and the inconvenience of replacing it.

This is an exciting time for the student and parent. With the right plan, you’re guaranteed to find success!

Sheryl Walsh with her two daughters posing for a photo on the pier with water and boats in the background.

Sheryl Walsh with her two daughters.