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8 Financial Tips for High School Graduates

{ Posted on Jun 12 2010 by Marcus Alston }

My nephew recently graduated from Milton Academy on Friday and I attended the ceremony along with several other proud relatives.  Milton Academy is a prestigious prep-school in Milton, Massachusetts.

These kids are some of the best and brightest young minds on the planet.  They are going to world famous universities such as Brown, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and New York University; great small liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Swarthmore, and Williams;  and lesser known, but fine institutions, such as Macalester College and the College of Wooster.

So what advice do I have to offer my nephew and his fellow graduates, the majority of whom are going to college (those that are not going to college are deferring for a year and engaging in amazing journeys to find themselves through exploring their talents or traveling the world)?  My advice:

1.Study hard; Consider studying abroad.  Your school prepared you very well for college, but the first year of college at most schools is difficult and challenging.  For most of you, you are going to be joining other equally talented students and your professor may grade on a curve which means someone has to be on the bottom (and someone on the top and middle).  Studying hard will pay off in the long run. Have fun too and party in moderation.  Consider studying abroad for a semester which should allow you to experience a different culture from a unique perspective.  If you can do it in a country where you learn a new language, all the better.  This experience will stay with you for the rest of your life and employers also value international experience.

2.  Really focus on learning and getting good grades.  Grades are important, but it’s equally or more important that you learn something academically, socially, and practically.  Be a sponge.  Don’t just go for the grade, although this is important too, especially when it comes to graduate school or getting that first job.

3.  Learn how to manage your money.  You must make sure that you have enough money for the school year.  Unless your parents give you an unlimited budget, this means you have to manage your money responsibly.  Show your parents you are ready for this responsibility.  Similar to high school, you may face peer pressure to buy expensive clothes and other items for school (and not to mention the latest cell phone or laptop).  Resist this temptation and focus on non-material things that are practical and add value to your college life and do not put you in debt.  A solid cell phone and laptop will do– the latest and greatest is not necessary.  Start with a budget which is the key to managing your money and dealing with debt.

4.  Stay below the estimated annual student budget.  Each school provides an estimate of costs for tuition, room and board, food, fees, books, living expenses, etc.  Stay below this estimate as much as you as you can.  Don’t end up in big debt like the guy from NYU with $275,000 in debt.

5. Stay out of credit card debt.  Even your own college may have cut a deal with credit card companies to market credit cards to you.  If you get a credit (if you do not already have one), be careful not to overspend.  Read my tips on how to manage your credit cards and what not to do with credit cards.

6.  Get a summer job asap and get to know your career counseling office.  The summer job is a resume builder for better summer jobs in the future and for your career job.  Get to know your college career counseling office well and early.

7.  Start thinking about saving.  It’s never too early, even when you are not making much money, to think about savings.  Take your summer savings and put some of it away.  Use some of it so you do not need to take out as many loans as well. Learn how to become a millionaire through saving.  Time is on your side.

8.  Be an entrepreneur.  Think about being your own boss.  What special skill do you have that you could use to make money?  How about something Internet related?  Consider being a blogger or a guest blogger for an established blogger?

I will close by leaving my nephew and other graduates with a quote (from

“I hope your dreams take you… to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.”

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4 Responses to “8 Financial Tips for High School Graduates”

  1. Very well spoken and very good pointers. Happy Birthday

  2. Great article. I wish someone told me this when I graduated. Hopefully, students will heed your advice.

  3. Lisa, hopefully with the beauty of the internet (as well as great libraries with good books), students will find more information on personal finance that can help them stay out of and manage debt. But don’t worry if no one told you about the info in this article when you graduated– the information on this site is for people of all ages–students, parents, retirees, etc., so its never too late to benefit from more information.

  4. To Nelda Wallace: Thank, thank you, and thank you! It’s a nice birthday present to have you reading my articles!

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