Going to college is an opportunity for many young people to expand their minds as they develop into adulthood. College does provide the environment, the people and the tools for students to build an academic and intellectual base, but the thirst for knowledge does not end there. Students need to learn how to apply college knowledge to their lives to create economic opportunity, and being financially literate typically improves someone’s vision about their future economic prospects. In today’s knowledge based economy, someone that knows how to apply themselves better than others is in best position to earn future income.

An article in the Atlantic highlighted some of the challenges faced by students that are the first from their family to attend college. First generation college students often come from families with limited means, and a culture shock occurs through interacting with peers. Students from wealthy families as well as students from poor families find themselves sharing the same school, but living radically different realities when it comes to lifestyle and hobbies. It can be a frustrating experience for poor students since they have nothing in common with their wealthy peers beyond anything superficial. It’s a shame, because college should be able to offer an environment where people can learn from each other socially through friendship and shared experiences, but not everyone will really have this opportunity as economic divisions subtly divide people.

How can first generation college students gain necessary financial literacy along the way to completing college?

Start your own business:

When it comes to making decisions about money, there is probably no better lesson than what is learned through starting a business. Many young people have successfully transitioned business ideas from college into the real world, but it took forethought, personal considerations and some risk to make it work. Lessons learned will be unique and susceptible to failure, but along the way the student learns to take responsibility for their ideas. Experience is the toughest teacher since it gives the test first and the lesson last, but learning about being a business owner is a good step towards gaining financial literacy.

Take the best and leave the rest:

In a world full of data, students need to quickly determine the value of knowledge to understand how much time and resources can be devoted towards it and know what can be gained from it. The classrooms of college will supply lots of learning material in a safe environment. However, students recognize that some classroom knowledge may be more helpful than others when it comes to future financial success. In order to gauge the value of new knowledge consider the following and rank items accordingly.

  • What positive impact does it make on your life? Having gained new knowledge, what good can it do for you?
  • What positive impact does it make for others? Do most people already know this knowledge or is this something people are mostly unaware of? Would they gain as much from this knowledge as you would?
  • Value proposition: How much would this knowledge be worth to other people? What value is created and can it be monetized in the future? Would people pay you to provide this knowledge?

It’s quickly realized that knowledge comes with varying degrees of value for our greater society, and what may be very important to you may be unimportant to others, and vice-versa. However, understanding a way to value knowledge can help a person organize their time to match their needs academically as well as economically.

Ask successful people about what they do:

There are many forms of “success”, but most people would agree that being in control of one’s financial situation is one important demonstration of success. College can create the environment where a student can interact with successful people through student activity groups, internships and cooperative opportunities. When given the chance, ask questions about how leaders got their start, where they get their ideas from, and how they manage their time. You may be surprised to find out that a successful person may share many similarities to you! Most importantly, the insight gained can help provide perspective. Successful people often face a lot of failure, but are able to learn and grow from it better than others.

For more information about financial literacy, visit our personal finance section.

Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.