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College Prep 101: Get Ready for College Life

May 08, 2023
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Congratulations on taking the next step in continuing your education and applying for college! As a young adult, heading to college is an exciting time because you get to experience freedom, responsibility, and new encounters that will shape your future.

To help make your college journey as smooth as possible, we’ve put together a few helpful tips for you.

Planning Ahead

One of the first steps to becoming a thriving college student is planning. While it may not sound glamorous or fun, we promise it’ll be valuable when it comes to balancing your coursework, a part-time job, plus a social life. Being a college student brings new experiences and learning opportunities. That’s why it’s important to know how to prioritize, plan, and set goals so you can live your best life while you’re there. 

Get a Checking Account and a Debit Card

Many financial institutions offer checking accounts designed specifically for young adults. If you don’t already have a checking account, now is the perfect time to open one! Becoming a member at Peach State FCU is fast and easy. Our helpful branch team can get you set up with our eXtreme Checking Account and a Visa Debit Card in no time. 

If you’re thinking to yourself “Why do I need a checking account?” – here’s why. A checking account connects your money to your Visa Debit Card so you can pay for the things you need and want. 

After your checking account is opened and you’ve received your Peach State Visa Debit Card, we recommend signing up for our online and mobile banking and taking advantage of our other great resources and tools like BALANCE Financial Fitness, our financial resource partner. We also offer mobile check deposit, mobile wallet, and eStatements to make accessing your money easy no matter how far away from home you are.

If you’re planning on picking up a part-time job to earn some extra cash, be sure to sign up for direct deposit so your paycheck is quickly and automatically deposited into your checking account.

Open a Savings Account

So you’ve gotten your checking account and debit card but what about a savings account to tuck money away for things like your first car or a trip during spring break? The reality is, you just never know when you’re going to need extra cash. A savings account will help you set money aside in case an emergency comes up. 

Start to Build Credit

If you’re over the age of 18, consider applying for our Student Platinum with Rewards Visa Credit Card.1  It’s designed to help young adults like yourself build credit while earning rewards that can be redeemed for name-brand merchandise, electronics, sports, travel, gift cards, and more! 

African American male university or college student with headphones looking at cellphone

Financial Aid

Financial aid is a federal government program that awards financial assistance to students in need in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs.

Here are some helpful steps for you and your parents when completing a FAFSA form.

  • Create an Account:  Getting your FSA ID ahead of time and using it to complete the FAFSA form on fafsa.gov can help reduce errors and delays. Find out how to get your FSA ID and what to do if you forget your FSA ID.
  • Documents You'll Need: You’ll need to provide personal information (your name, date of birth, address, etc.) and details about your financial situation to complete the FAFSA form. You may need some or all of the following documents:
    • Your Social Security number and/or your parent's Social Security numbers (if you’re a dependent student)
    • Your driver’s license number (if you have one)
    • Your Alien Registration number (if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
    • Federal tax information, tax documents, or tax returns, including IRS W-2 information, for you and/or for your parents (if you’re a dependent student)
    • Records of any untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and/or for your parents (if you’re a dependent student)
    • Information on cash such as savings and checking account balances, investments (including stocks and bonds and real estate), business and farm assets for you and/or for your parents (if you’re a dependent student)
For more information about the documents, you’ll need to complete your FAFSA application, please visit studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out.


  • Starting Your FAFSA Form: The FAFSA form is available on October 1st of every year for the following school year’s enrollment. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to complete it as soon as possible. 

For a full list of federal deadlines, visit studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/fafsa-deadlines. For more information about completing the FAFSA form, visit studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out

Scholarships Equal FREE Money

A scholarship is financial support that is awarded to students based on academic achievement or other criteria such as a financial need for the purpose of continuing education. You can learn about scholarships by contacting the financial aid office at the school you’re attending, checking your local public library, and researching online. As you’re searching for scholarships, be careful of potential scams by making sure the information and offers you receive are legitimate. Remember, you don't have to pay to find scholarships or other financial aid. Check out more information on how to avoid scams.

Each year in December, Peach State offers a Scholarship Program for graduating seniors in high school and adults seeing career advancement. During that time, we’ll provide details about all available scholarships, eligibility requirements, and instructions for applying. Please visit our Scholarship Program page for more information. 

Understanding Student Loans vs. Private Lending

When applying for student loans it’s important to note that there are different lending alternatives available. Before you make a decision, it’s best to do a comparison of federal and private loans so you can determine which option is best for you.

  • Federal Student Loans: Loans funded by the government; typically, payments aren’t due until after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status to less than half-time. 
  • Private Student Loans: Nonfederal loans funded by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or a school; many require payments while you’re still in school, but some do allow you to defer payments until graduation.
Depending on the cost of your tuition, you may need both federal and private loans. While you’re researching your options, be sure to factor in things like when the repayment period begins, interest rates, and affordability.

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Enjoy Your College Life Experience

The key to a successful college experience is knowing what to expect and how to prepare for it. It’s also important to remember that your experience may look different from your classmates because everyone’s goals are different.

Take advantage of all that college has to offer from participating in clubs, and exploring the incredible opportunities for academic achievement to enjoying events, meeting new people, and making new friends. Your college experience will be filled with new adventures and everlasting memories. This is one of the most exciting times of your life, so make the best of it!

To learn more financial tips that will help you thrive in college, check out our “Top Financial Tips for New College Students” blog.

1 The minimum age for a Peach State Visa Credit Card is 18 and a guarantor may be necessary if your annual income is not sufficient for repayment. 

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