Tips for High School Students

The transition from high school to college can be a tough one, especially financially. But no worries, the SMMC, is here to help! Here are our top 5 money tips for high school students:

1. Work on Getting Scholarships

a. Study hard and get good grades

b. Be involved in extracurricular activities and try to get leadership positions in organizations

c. Apply for as many scholarships as you can

2. Complete the FAFSA

a. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) after January 1st during your senior year of high school

b. Ask your parents to help you fill in their information

c. Complete the FAFSA EVERY YEAR of college to apply for grants & federal loans at If you electronically file your taxes, use the IRS data retrieval tool

3. Save Money From Your Part-Time Job

a. Save as much as you can for college expenses including books, laundry, snacks, sports tickets, entertainment, parking permits, etc.

b. Have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. This fund could save you money that you would waste on interest charges if you were forced to borrow money for unexpected bills

c. Have a spending plan. Having a plan for your money will help you spend your money wisely, and is good practice for managing your money in college. We recommend students check out, a free tool that will help you create your own plan

4. Start Exploring Careers Now

a. Ask people who work in fields that you might be interested in if you can shadow them for a day. That will help you see what that job might actually be like

b. Take classes in high school that pertain to what you might want to study in college

c. Start researching careers or fields that you are interested in to learn more about them before you start college

5. Ask Your Parents for Help

a. Your parents have a lot of financial knowledge that you can take advantage of. If they don’t know the answer to your question, they can help you find it.

b. Ask them for advice and help on: opening bank accounts, getting a debit card, understanding credit cards, creating a budget, understanding student loans and how much you should take out in loans, deciding whether or not to bring a car to college, deciding whether or not to live on campus, figuring out if you are covered by their health, dental, vision, car, and homeowner’s insurance, and understanding credit reports and credit scores.

We hope you use these tips to better financially prepare yourself for college!


Cheap Weekend Getaway: Niobrara

Students often want to travel during their summers off of school, but summer jobs and internships and cost of travel can be prohibitive. Here’s an idea for a trip that’s cheap and not too far away: a visit to the Niobrara River!  If you go camping, trips to the Niobrara can be less than $100 per person!

The part of the Niobrara River where people like to tube, canoe, kayak, etc. is near Valentine, NE which is roughly 5 hours from Lincoln. There are many outfitters that offer canoes, tubes, kayaks, and more for rent on the river. There are also multiple campsites where people can camp for $7-$10 per person. Students can just borrow a tent and cooler from family or friends and bring along some food for a lunch on the river and dinner to cook over a fire.  Tubes can be anywhere from $30-$50 and canoes and kayaks are around the same price range. Many people will canoe or kayak one day and tube another day. The outfitters cover different parts of the river, so it’s important to decide which parts of the river you want to see before you choose an outfitter. Attractions include the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, Berry Falls, Smith Falls, Stair Step Falls, and Fritz’s Landing, and Rocky Ford. As always, it is important to compare prices to get the best deal! Always call the outfitters to see what their current prices are since their websites might not be updated frequently.

Niobrara is a beautiful river that is both relaxing and fun to float down. It is a great destination for a short family vacation or a getaway with friends. A trip to the Niobrara is a fun way to enjoy nature as well as unplugged time with family or friends.

Tips for Husker Freshmen Parents

This time of year is a busy one for incoming freshman and their parents. They have to figure out housing, classes, campus visits, and much more. This post is to help out the parents and make the college transition for them and their student easier.

The first tip is to remember YOU are one of the best educational resources for your student! Share your own financial mistakes with your student. Know that a financial mistake doesn’t mean you foolishly spent your money or accumulated a lot of debt. By talking about your financial mistakes you can help prevent your student from making the same mistakes. Your student may be more willing to share their financial concerns with you if they know that you aren’t perfect with your money either.

Help your student fill out the FAFSA correctly EVERY year

  • Count your student as a member of the household
  • If the custodial parent has remarried, the stepparent’s information must also be included
  • Do not include retirement assets
  • Do not inflate your education level. If you did not graduate college, select “high school” as the highest education attainment

Talk to your student about how your insurance covers them while they’re in college

  • Find out if your homeowner’s insurance covers your student’s belongings in a dorm or apartment. If it does not or the coverage is not sufficient, your student should get renter’s insurance
  • Some policies limit a student’s coverage to 10% of a family’s total coverage
  • In many cases, buying separate renter’s insurance is cheaper than increasing your family’s coverage
  • Do you have health insurance that covers your student? If not, have them look into the UNL Student Health Insurance.

Discuss credit cards with your student

  • Tell your student the difference between debit cards and credit cards
  • Students should only have credit cards if they can use them responsibly or they will ruin their credit score
  • If your student can handle a credit card, help them choose one with no annual fee and a low APR
  • Make sure your student pays their credit card and Ncard bill in full each month and on time to avoid interest and late fees
  • Make sure your student understands all of the fees associated with their cards

These tips can make it a whole lot easier for your students to make the transition to college. Be sure to actively talk with your student about finances, because it can have a lasting effect.  We look forward to seeing your students in the fall!

Financial Education Games & Quizzes

If you’re like me, sometimes it can be hard to concentrate when learning about a new subject. Luckily when it comes to Personal Finance the SMMC doesn’t mess around. No longer will you doze off while learning about credit or investing! Our website offers multiple financial games and quizzes for you to take, that will be sure not to bore you.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Financial Football

* Give your financial knowledge a workout with the latest version of Financial Football, a fast-paced, NFL-themed video game. Test your money management skills by answering financial questions that allow you to move down the field and score touchdowns.

Financial Soccer

* Put your financial skills to the test with the new 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil-branded version of this fast-paced, multiple-choice question game. This game, tests players’ money management skills as they advance down the field and try to score.

Countdown to Retirement

* Get ready to retire. Will you live out the rest of your days in luxury? Will you work until the day you die? It depends on the choices you make in life and how well you manage your money.

Road Trip to Savings

* Meet the challenges of 4 weeks on the road as you steer your way to financial stability.

On top of the different games, we also offer a variety of different quizzes. Such as: Are You Money Smart, Learn Finances from the Movies, and Scary Money Stories. With all of these different options there is no excuse for you not to be money smart! Check out the complete list of interactive resources, including these games and more at

Post written by Tom Myers, SMMC Program Assistant