Freshman college student financial checklist: are you ready?

First-time college students often forget to budget for things like books, food and transportation
Posted at 6:53 PM, Aug 01, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In a couple weeks, many first-time college students will begin a new chapter in their lives - one that brings with it some eye-opening financial realities.

"It is a massive transition going from high school to college; both in terms of financial literacy, and it might be the first time the student is away from home," said Dr. Ryan Hartnett, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Villa Maria College in Buffalo.

Often new students overlook budgeting for the cost of textbooks, food and transportation.

"If you can't get to school, you are going to have some problems completing your degree," explained Dr. Hartnett.

College text books can come with a big sticker shock for those who are unprepared. "They can be anywhere between $500 and $1,000 a semester depending on their course of study," added Hartnett.

To reduce costs, Villa Maria encourages students to purchase used textbooks or rent them.

Websites such as Amazon and Chegg offer more information on those options.

Freshman students and their families should also be putting together a budget, before starting college, to handle expenses beyond tuition/room & board.

"It is common a few weeks into the semester that first-time students will realize they didn't plan for some of these things," said Villa Maria College President Dr. Matthew Giordano.

Both administrators say now is the perfect time to double check with college business, financial aid and student support offices to make sure new students, and their families, won't get caught with a financial surprise.

Villa Maria College allows students to text and chat through its online website for answers.


  • Have you submitted your FAFSA and all financial aid forms?
  • Have you created a budget?
  • Do you have a buffer of money to handle miscellaneous expenses?
  • Have you estimated your semester transportation costs?
  • Do you have a food plan or figured what it will cost to eat throughout the semester?
  • Do you have a checking account?
  • DON"T use financial aid refunds for unnecessary items.
  • AVOID taking out credit cards unless you can pay off the balance every month. Many students see their college career put in jeopardy by running up unmanageable amounts of credit card debt.
  • PLAN on working part time or on-campus jobs. It is impractical to think about working 40 hours/week while attending school as a full-time student.
  • DON'T be afraid to ask questions about financial issues. Even teachers/professors can help direct you to the correct people for answers. New college students tend to be timid and overwhelmed by the financial realities.
  • Contact your college's business office and ask them to explain your bill, so you can understand it better.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly visited Villa Maria College to learn more about preparing for the start of the college semester.