U.S. News and World Report's latest article, "College Seniors: Know These 4 Financial Tips for Your Last Month of College," is worth a read. Reporter Susannah Snider offers four easy suggestions that might make these last weeks before graduation less stressful. Her tips are included below.
"Head to the financial aid office. Sorry, students, but your student loans will come due faster than you can say "income-based repayment."
For most federal loans, you'll have a six-month grace period before repayment is due (typically in November for May graduates). Private student loans may come due even sooner. Take your last month on campus to schedule a face-to-face sit-down with your friendly financial aid administrator to ask any questions about your repayment options, including deferment and forbearance. Make sure, also, that your student loan servicer has up-to-date contact information if you're changing addresses or will no longer be checking your college email address.
Discover your credit score. If you don't know what your credit score is – or how to maintain a strong credit score – now is the time to investigate. It'll give you a sense of your financial strength and prepare you to keep your score healthy in the future.
You can get your credit score for free from a number of resources, including Credit Karma, Credit.com and Credit Sesame, typically in exchange for your personal information. Your credit card issuer may even keep you updated on your score by placing it in your monthly statement. "Frankly, as a young person – you're just starting to get a credit card – I'd recommend getting a credit card from a company that's going to give you [your score] for free," says John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College. You can also check your credit history by requesting a free report from one of the three credit-reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – at annualcreditreport.com. This is also a great strategy to discover any private student loan debt you have on the books (those private loans in your name should be noted on the credit report).
Prepare for transitional expenses. Ideally, you should have an emergency savings account stocked with three to six months' worth of living expenses. But let's be honest: That's a pretty tall order for a cash-strapped college student.
At the minimum, though, you should be squirreling away enough money to fund the transitional expenses that will undoubtedly arise when you leave campus. "It costs money to move, and not all employers will pay for the transition," Barnett says. Keep in mind that starting your new life may require hiring a moving truck, slapping down a security deposit on a new apartment and buying new, work-appropriate clothes for your job.
Start saving for these expenses now – and directing any graduation gifts to a savings account – and you won't need to call the Bank of Mom and Dad or, worse, put those expenses on a credit card.
Find a job. If you're still searching for a job during your last month before graduation, keep at it. "If you're a college student right now, you should be prioritizing this as much as you're prioritizing your classes," says Liz Wessel, CEO and co-founder of WayUp, a job marketplace for students and recent grads.
If you're still on the hunt, Wessel recommends looking in smaller markets where the pay may not be sky-high but the cost of living is really low. She also suggests sitting down with any professors, advisors and professional contacts who can give you good job-search advice while you're still a student. "Get all that free advice from people who are paid – it's what they do for a living – to help you," she says. It's easier to do this now than when you're a few months out of school, she says."