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5 Financial To-Dos Before Back to School

So you can focus on studying, not stressing about money.

It’s almost time to hit the books again. Whether you’re going in to first year or fourth, it’s taken a village of teachers, coaches, friends, and family to get you to this stage. HigherEdPoints aims to help with the financial part of the village it’ll take to help you fund your education–and come out with as little debt as possible. Regardless of whether you’ll be studying online or in person, from home or from a dorm room, we’ve put together a checklist of Back To School Financial To-do’s to tackle now, so you can focus on school, not stressing about money.


1. Get a Handle on This Year’s Expenses and Sources of Funds.

Use the HigherEdPoints Ways to Pay for School budgeting worksheet to capture the most common expenses, as well as those often forgotten about. You can use a downloadable excel worksheet or check out the PDF!

If you’re getting help from family, be sure to talk about finances before you leave for school. Having a (sometimes uncomfortable) conversation about who is paying for what (is UBER in or out?) and how funds will be provided (lump sum, as needed, monthly?) will reduce anxiety and potential financial surprises.


2. Create a Budget.

It may seem like the money you have at the beginning of a term is a lot, but it’s shocking how quickly little expenses can add up (food, textbooks, transportation are all things students tell us they underestimate). Download the excel version of the Ways to Pay for School worksheet and edit it to suit your needs—a weekly budget may help you keep better track of your spending, but when school gets busy, it may make more sense to have a monthly budget.

Life happens—and unexpected expenses will crop up, but with a budget, you’ll have a much better/quicker handle on where you might have funding gaps.


3. Know When Your Bills are Due… And How to Access Them.

Once you hit campus, you’re an adult in the eyes of your school. Your parents can’t access your student account without your express permission, so you’re the only one who will be able to figure out when your tuition and student fees are due. If you miss a tuition payment deadline, there are often late fees (and that’s a pain and a waste of money).

Some schools don’t send any fee notices out—students have to access their student portal. If you don’t know where to find this information, just Google “[Insert the name of your school], how to pay tuition.” This will often get you to the fees office, but if not, it’ll get you to the Financial Aid office… which is the next item on our to-do list!


4. Your Back To School Buddies: Financial Aid & Award Officers

Even though this is point #4, the #1 financial tip HigherEdPoints can give students at any stage is to:

Visit Your Campus Financial Aid Office and sign up for communications.

Financial Aid Officers (FAOs) are campus super-heroes—they spend all day, every day helping students find money to bridge funding gaps—but they can only help you if they can communicate with you.

Here are a few things your campus FAO can help you with:

  • Government student loans: applying, appealing, & repaying.
  • Bursaries: what you’re automatically eligible for or what you need to do to become eligible (e.g. register/apply)
  • Campus work-study: excellent jobs for students at each campus. They go quickly, so get in touch before classes start to get the first crack at these jobs.
  • Scholarships: most schools have one annual application (often called a “One App”) period where students enroll to be automatically considered for scholarships and awards
  • Help you get other help you may need. Once you’ve established a relationship with a real live person in the Financial Aid Office, should you find you’ve got an issue you’re not sure where to find answers for, dollars to donuts your FAO can point you in the right direction. They are a key campus hub and interact with every other administrative office on campus, as well as the academic faculties. They often have fabulous relationships with people or groups off campus too!

When you connect with your FAOs this year, tell ‘em HigherEdPoints says “hi” too!


5. Expect the Unexpected.

With our decades of experience helping students find money for school, there’s one thing we know for sure: you can plan until the cows come home, but something can still blindside you financially. It’s 2020—we’ve all experienced this first hand.

The great news, though, is there’s more than one way to obtain your education—defer for a term or a year while you earn some money. Or take your courses part-time, or one course at a time. Your educational journey doesn’t have to be a sprint, it can be a marathon!


We hope HigherEdPoints can also help you fill in some of those financial gaps. Visit us at: for more information on converting loyalty points into funds for tuition and student loan repayments.