College Transition Guide

college student

If you or a loved one are entering on-campus college life for the first time, it’s an exciting time in life. Others may be transitioning back to school after a summer off or educational gap with an eye on advancing toward a degree or other credential. In either case, it pays dividends to plan, budget and be prepared. We have six tips to help you manage the financial demands of the semester more affordably.

Budget and Track Your Spending

It’s easier to make sound financial decisions if you know where all your money is going.

  • Build out a monthly budget. Allocate expenses for food and groceries, laundry costs, transportation, curriculum costs, and all those pesky college fees. You can use the Budgeting tools in your Cadence Online Banking experience or build a digital spreadsheet.
  • Make sure there is room for unexpected or unplanned expenses in your budget. This should be in addition to emergency funds.
  • Review spending frequently to make sure it lines up with what you budgeted. You might find areas where you can cut back spending and identify problem areas that are going over budget.
  • Build an emergency fund, and don’t tap into it unless it’s a real emergency!

Plan Your Move-In Day

On-campus programs all start with showing up. Move-in day at any campus can be a busy affair, so plan ahead to make it easier.

  • Find out what the move-in date is as early as you can.
  • If you need to rent a trailer or vehicle to move furniture, you could save money by booking a reservation far in advance rather than waiting until move-in week when demand is at a peak.
  • If the campus is near enough to visit, scout out the dorms, parking situation, and routes in and out that you may have to navigate with a large truck or trailer.
  • If an in-person scouting trip isn’t possible, use Google Maps Street View to virtually “crawl” the campus.


Students don’t spend ALL their time in the dorm and classroom. They’re going to need to get around.

  • Many larger campuses have their own bus system. Look online for information about public transportation and, if available, get familiar with routes.
  • If there are maps and information, bookmark or download them into your phone, so it’s always handy.
  • If you are a student driving a car, take a second look at your insurance needs and make sure the deductibles and coverage are adequate. Cadence Insurance can help.
  • Consider signing up for a service that provides roadside assistance. Many insurance companies offer this as an add-on at affordable rates. Ask yours about possible services.


One of the most infamous expenses for higher education is textbook costs. Fortunately, there are ways to save money.

  • Some colleges and universities include textbooks and course material in the cost of tuition. Find out if your school does for any classes.
  • Buying used books can knock a significant amount off the cost. However, if a class requires the latest edition of a book, this option may not be possible.
  • Book rental is another option if you don’t want to pay full price for a book you’ll likely only use once.
  • Digital books can sometimes be cheaper than their hardback counterparts, and digital book rental is also an option.
  • If you are friends with a classmate with whom you share some classes, consider splitting the cost of one book that the two of you can share. Whichever route you choose, make sure you’ve got a plan for how to cover the cost of books.

Meal Plans

Most universities offer meal plans that give you several meals per week at a fixed cost.

  • Meal expenses may or may not come out of your financial aid package if you have one. Double-check and budget accordingly.
  • Some plans have flex spending options to add additional meals. This might allow you to save money instead of dining out.
  • The most important tip is to make sure you use up all your meals by the end of the semester, as meal plan balances tend not to carry over their credits into the next period. Use it or lose it!

Student Discounts

Last tip: Student discounts are everywhere. At brick-and-mortar stores, online, in mobile phone plans, digital subscriptions, software discounts and more.

  • In person, always ask if there is a student discount.
  • Online, you can search for whether goods and services you already use have a student discount.
  • You may need to sign up for a third-party verification system such as in order to activate some student discounts.


Starting college out with smart planning can help you have a more successful transition. If you’re an adult of a first-year college student, be sure to have the Cadence mobile app on both your smartphones and set up easy transfers from your account to theirs in your online and mobile banking. If you need to sign up your student for a bank account, check out My Way Checking for Students to get started!


This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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