Some lucky college students won’t ever have to struggle financially. They’ll get by on scholarships and family funds, enjoying freedom from debt and good credit the whole way—and good for them! But the rest of us who aren’t so fortunate will have to get creative to keep our financial goals intact. These simple habits can help maximize your credit score during college, for a brighter postgraduate future.
1. Adjust your expectations. Everyone knows that being “poor” is part of the fun of college—seriously! It’s all about discovering cheap eats and student discounts and stretching less into more. Rule of thumb: Get involved in campus clubs and activities. In addition to being a great way to meet people, it’s tons of FREE fun. See what your fellow classmates are up to before venturing off on your own.
2. Pay all your bills on time, even the “little” ones. It’s often the pesky unpaid cell-phone bill that seems to follow you around years after graduation. If having a college credit card is absolutely necessary, pay off the whole balance—or at least well over the minimum—every single month.
3. Avoid debt like the plague. There will be plenty of time for a fancier car or better clothes after college—when you can actually afford it. And while it sounds like a total “dad” thing to say, if you feel pressured to match others’ spending habits, you might need to broaden your social circle a bit and hang out with folks who are more on your financial level.
4. Save it, don’t spend it. This one often requires restraint, but think about it this way: If the difference between financial freedom and crushing debt after college is a measly pizza or two… well, you do the math.
5. Be vigilant. Check your accounts at least once a week, and monitor your credit score periodically—doing so can help you curb excess spending and make it easier to spot suspicious or fraudulent behavior.
6. Beware of scams and predatory lenders, who love to trick college students by offering paltry t-shirts and $3 coolers in exchange for signing up for credit cards with outrageously high APRs. Don’t fall for it—read the fine print carefully before signing anything.
Signs Your Credit Might Be in Trouble:
• You’ve been denied a credit card, loan, utility service, or even a job because of your score.
• You’re afraid to even check your credit report.
• Debt collectors are calling you; you’ve had cars or other items repossessed for nonpayment.
• Your credit score falls below 650. According to world leader in credit reporting, Experian, a score above 700 “usually suggests good credit management.”