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Articles / Admissions / Freshman Money Traps

May 20, 2020

Freshman Money Traps

A couple days ago, I mentioned one of my frequently visted Web sites: Consumerist.com. You'll find lots of interesting and useful consumer-based information there, such as how to send email "carpet bombs" to corporate executives when you're having a problem with one of their products or dealers.

Now that colleges are gearing up for the return of all their students, there have been some helpful tips on Consumerist. One especially pertinent entry concerns how collegians can be "on the lookout for money-sapping, credit-ruining traps." Here are some highlights:

Personal finance blog Poorer Than You warns new college students to be on the lookout for money-sapping, credit-ruining traps.

One piece of advice from the post scolds students to avoid the sheep mentality that leads to signing up for free schwag from credit card companies camped out in high-traffic areas on weekdays:

"Free stuff is awesome! But you've got to know, in the back of your mind, that there's a reason that these guys are giving you a free t-shirt (or candy bar, or Frisbee). The reason they do it is because they will make way more money off of you over the years than the cost of that freebie. In most cases the money they make off of you is in the form of awful fees, which you could have avoided if you got a proper bank account.

So don't be like your friends, who'll line the pockets of banks and credit card companies in exchange for a cheep Frisbee with the bank's logo on it! Get a checking account that is a truly fee-free student account, with ATMs on or near campus. This might be the type of account the guys with the free t-shirts are offering, or it might not be. Trust me, the money you save in fees will buy you much cooler shirts!"

Poorer Than You also recommends avoiding buying text books at school book stores and keeping current on student loans. It's all sound advice, but I'm glad I didn't read a similar blog post before I started school. I'd have missed out on so many water bottles, shirts and free fanny packs that... are probably all in landfills at this point. Dammit!


Great advice, no? Keep an eye on Consumerist.com for more college-related advice. I'll keep watch too.

Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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