College Planning for the Student

August 19, 2019

So you are headed off to college? This is an exciting time in anyone’s life, but it often comes with unforeseen challenges. Moving out of Mom and Dad’s house can be liberating but also a bit unnerving as you have likely never lived on your own.

Here are some topics to consider that you may find helpful as you move away from the home for the first time.

Meal Plans on Campus

You might be living in the dorms this year, so you’ll have to sign up for a meal plan through your University. Here are some tips:

  • Understand how much money you are allotted per day and how that translates in terms of a budget for meals, snacks and coffee.
  • Explore the healthy food options on campus to make sure you are getting necessary nutrients and not always filling up on pasta, french fries, and ice cream.

 Applied Culinary Arts

If you aren’t on a meal plan for the year, then you will need to learn to cook.  When you find yourself eating your fifth bowl of top ramen, you will probably be thinking that you miss Mom and Dad’s delicious home cooked meals (Tip: Make sure you call and thank them, they’ll appreciate it more than you know). Unless you’re planning on eating rehydrated pseudo-soup indefinitely, you’ll need to start preparing your own healthy meals. If you’ve never had an interest in spending time in the kitchen, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use your phone and search something similar to “easy healthy meals on a budget.” This will populate a wealth of information that will contain recipes within your skillset and budget, and appeal to your taste buds.
  • Make sure you’re stocked with the basic kitchen essentials including pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc. A quick internet search can identify the necessary basics depending on your kitchen setup.  Don’t be afraid to let family know you’d love to have their hand-me-down kitchen basics if they are planning to upgrade anytime soon. Many family members would welcome the opportunity to get rid of one of the five spatulas they’ve somehow managed to accumulate.
  • If you really want to save time and money, invest in a crockpot. It’s an easy way to meal prep and you can freeze the extras for later use. You also get a bonus because it will make your apartment smell delicious.

Physical Education

Since you’re no longer required to participate in gym class or sports, you need to make it a priority to take care of your body. Exercise and diet go hand-in-hand in maintaining top cognitive performance, so get moving five times a week for at least 30 minutes – your smartwatch can help if you have one. Staying active will help you release endorphins and help you feel better in general.

While we’re on the topic of staying in peak physical condition, here are some other points to ponder:

  • What kinds of health insurance do you have? Do you know your copays for visits and prescriptions? Did your university automatically enroll you in their health plan?
  • If you need to visit the doctor or urgent care, who is your in-network provider and where is the office located? (Figuring this out when you’re suffering and not thinking clearly, due to strep throat or some other ailment will fall under the category of NOT FUN – do your homework now.)
  • Do you know what to expect when you visit the doctor’s office on your own? Be sure to have your ID and insurance card, be ready to explain what is concerning you about your health (doctors can’t read your mind), and if you’re given instructions you don’t completely understand keep asking questions until they make sense. You’ll also need to be ready to answer questions about any allergies and your family’s health history.
  • Do you review your medical bills in detail upon receipt and pay them promptly? Sadly, errors in medical billing happen all the time, so make sure you’re not being charged for something you’ve already paid for through your insurance. On a side note, late payments on any bill will hurt your credit score.
  • Did you know that after age 18, an Advance Health Care Directive is required to allow a trusted person (such as a parent) to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself? Generally, parents aren’t authorized to make these decisions for you unless you have an Advanced Health Care Directive.

Studies in Modern Housekeeping

Let’s face it, cleaning your home is not very fun. You still have to do it because if you don’t, it’s just gross and you may suffer from a lack of repeat visitors. For practical reasons, cleaning kills germs and it saves time when looking for your keys or your phone. Here are a few tips:

  • Hop back on your phone and search “baking soda and vinegar for household cleaning.” With the prescribed amounts of each of these ingredients, you can basically clean your entire home in a cheap and ecofriendly manner. This search may also enlighten you to a whole new list of things you didn’t realize you should probably clean.
  • Set a timer and blast Spotify, Pandora or your Apple Music. If you power clean and work up a sweat, you can count it as the physical activity mentioned above.
  • Just a quick note on laundromat etiquette – always remove your clothes as promptly as possible. It would be a real bummer, if someone else moved your freshly cleaned clothes to a not so clean basket or table. Also, clothes that are left in a machine too long have a high probability of disappearing. If you think your old gym socks are safe, remember the world is made up of all kinds of interesting.

Peace and Conflict Studies

In Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, the author encourages an “Uncomfortable Rule.” Here’s how it works: the roommates make a pact that if any of them does something that makes another roommate uncomfortable, the person who is bothered by the issue has to bring it up within 48 hours or never bring it up again. When people live together, they’re inevitably going to do things to annoy each other, but it’s important not to let small issues fester until they’re huge. Here are some other ways to make living with others easier:

  • Set ground rules from the start – what are you comfortable with sharing and what personal items are off limits? How do you feel about visitors or overnight guests? Setting expectations and communicating your needs is key to a happy household.
  • Get tech-savvy with payment apps – Venmo or any other expense sharing app is going to be your best friend and the easiest way to split bills and pay your roommate back instantly.

Hopefully, the tips above will help soften the transition to into the next phase of your life as a college student. As always, if you or a family member have any questions on student loans, the cost of college or budgeting, please give one of CCMI’s experienced financial advisors a call.


CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country.  CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
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