Going back to school as a mature student

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Back to school can conjure all sorts of memories… fresh notebooks, new indoor sneakers, and the joy and anticipation of finding out who’s going to be in your class. And, the anxiety of figuring out how to pay for it all. Wait. What?

Education is always a good idea, but making the decision to go back to the books after you’ve been out of the classroom for an extended period of time can be a big life change. And sometimes big changes come with big financial implications.

As students young, old, and everywhere in between gear up to get back to the classroom, here are a few things to keep in mind to help make the transition a little smoother as a mature student.

Make a plan.

First things first: make a plan. Going back to school is a big commitment. Depending on the program, it might mean that you’re not able to work and study at the same time, or your working hours might have to be reduced. If you know what you’re getting into, you can budget accordingly. Do you have tuition and expenses saved, or will you need a loan? Do you qualify for government loans, or do you need to talk to your financial institution? Do you need to move to be closer to your program, or can you commute? Think through the logistics of your new routine so you can have as clear a picture as possible to help you be able to account for various expenses. A little bit of planning now will save you a lot of stress in the future.

Have a budget.

Once you’ve answered some of those questions and made a plan, you should also start to make a budget. It will help to talk to a financial expert who can work with you to create a budget that captures your current expenses and then look at what you can cut down on during the school year to make it work. You’re probably going to need to make some choices, but most programs only last for a few years, so it might be a matter of some short-term sacrifices for some long-term gain.

Expect the unexpected.

Just because you’re putting things in your life on hold to go back to school doesn’t mean life is going to listen to you. Things happen. Accounting for your current expenses is important, but thinking about how to pay for unexpected expenses should also be on your radar. By setting aside a little extra for the unplanned expenses in life, your budget—not to mention your stress level—will thank you.

Take advantage of the perks.

Cash can be tight when you’re a student, which is why so many places offer student discounts and plans. Just because you might not fit the “typical” profile of a student doesn’t mean you’re not eligible to take advantage of the perks. Often, all that’s required is a valid student ID. Ask around—many local businesses will have student discounts, specials, and offers. Don’t be shy! Every little bit helps during this exciting—and expensive—time.

If you’re thinking of making a big change in your life, talking with a financial expert can help. Get in touch with your local credit union today.