First-year financial failure

“Educate yourself. Learn how to make a budget. Ask the right questions and be grounded in your spending,” said Booth.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Post-secondary education is one of the most crucial points in a person’s life when responsibility and freedom are major factors. Being unprepared for first year is often inevitable. Students encounter problems adapting to being away from their families, difficulties keeping up with a heavy course load and in so many cases, difficulty managing educational finances.

Tuition, textbooks, living accommodations and everything in between can add up quickly, which is why it’s important to plan ahead for these expenses. First-year students are commonly the most likely to run into financial problems because of the unfamiliar and unpredictable structure of post-secondary life.

As students transition from one year to the next, they gradually get a handle on how to manage their funds by learning from their first-year mistakes.

Whether it be using saved money to go out for food rather than using up your meal plan, or racking up a credit card with unnecessary purchases, first-year students don’t think about budgeting until it is too late.

Wilfrid Laurier University offers students many resources that are available on campus and online to help address financial situations they may find themselves in and work towards solutions.

Many students go from working 40-hour weeks during the summer to not working at all upon returning to school for the year. The loss of income is noticeable throughout the year, yet many find it hard to balance a job while taking a full course load.

Through Laurier’s Work-Study Program, students are able to apply for a part-time job throughout the school year to limit some financial burden.

Ruth MacNeil, associate registrar at Laurier and Monica Duyvestyn, financial aid administrator, explained the types of jobs offered through the program.

“Everything is on campus — research positions, hands-on positions. Most of the jobs offered are clerical office work,” said Duyvestyn.

There are approximately 100–120 open positions for students from both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses combined. Applications are available at the beginning of the fall term to full-time students in financial need.

“We try to fit students in positions that fit them best. Everyone here is very accommodating to the students who apply,” explained MacNeil.

With the help of several student volunteers, Laurier’s Food Bank offers care packages to any student at their request. The system allows a student to be supplied with a week-worth of food if they are unable to purchase it themselves.

“We’re here to support students when they need us most,” said Laurier’s Food Bank Coordinator, Ruth Jeevasagayam.

This year the food bank is looking to expand their offerings beyond mostly canned goods. Kaipa Bharucha, the vice-president of programming and services, shared that “you can request whether you’d like to receive food credits at the dining hall.”

This new offering is limited to a set number of credits available, but students utilizing the meal pass can appreciate a hot meal, especially in the midst of financial burden.

Students may feel embarrassed about using this aid, but Jeevasagayam assures the package request form is “completely anonymous.”

Applying for financial aid can be done with the help of a financial advisor available on campus to ensure accuracy and deadline requirements. A financial advisor can also guide them in the right direction on applying for scholarships and bursaries through the Student Awards office.   

TD Branch Manager, Michael Booth shared his opinion on why students often tend to run out of funding before a school year comes to an end.

“Student’s don’t create a budget — they don’t have a plan. They come out of high school having no idea what things really cost,” said Booth.

The transition from high school to post-secondary education is huge, and as most high school curriculums don’t address financial planning, students truly aren’t aware of its importance.

Outside of on campus financial advising, students can turn to their bank for help on organizing their finances and getting on the right track. Some students aren’t sure how to go about doing this but the answer is quite simple.

“Just come on in,” said Booth. “We have great advisors, and we’re happy to help students get started.”

Most banks offer student lines of credit specially designed for those requiring financial assistance, yet Booth mentions a lot of the time students are using their credit on purchases unrelated to schooling.

“Educate yourself. Learn how to make a budget. Ask the right questions and be grounded in your spending,” said Booth.

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