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7 Things Students and Parents Should Do Before College Starts

While you're making your first budget, it's a good idea to make a list of financial goals, says Kimberly Foss, founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif.

"It's wise for students to simply write down their financial goals," Foss says. "Maybe a goal is to secure a part-time job or set aside a certain amount of money each month in savings. Anyone who writes down their goals has a great probability of success."

3. Have mom and dad cosign on a credit card with you. Because of the Credit Card Accountability Act of 2009, no one under 21 can get a credit card independently unless they can demonstrate an ability to pay or they have a co-signer, Cunningham says.


"It's not a bad idea for mom and dad to add their child to one of their existing credit cards as an authorized user," she says. "This allows the youngster to build a credit history, but mom and dad are still in charge and can remove him or her at will if necessary."

Parents who co-sign for their child should keep in mind that they'll be on the hook for the student's bills, Descano says. "If you're concerned that your child might go overboard with the credit card, you can get a card with a low credit limit. That way, if he or she hits that limit, the card should be declined at the point of sale," she says.

4. Start saving. "One of the biggest missed opportunities is that many college students don't start saving early on," says Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma. "Most recent grads should have a job the summer before college, and they can begin saving then before they are paying for more expensive items like textbooks."

If possible, students should continue saving while they're in school, he says.

"Say you are a student who is tutoring for extra cash or working part-time on the weekends. You should save a percentage of what you earn in an online savings account. Even 5% can really add up over the years. By the time you graduate, you'll have a nice little emergency fund built up," he says.

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