The financial reality of being a full-time student

May 17, 2017
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Being a full-time student has a lot of perks, like being the quickest way to that fabled degree we keep hearing so much about. But it does also come with a few pesky financial downsides that a lot of us just won’t be prepared for when making the decision to conquer this study thing. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault; with age comes wisdom…or something like that. Luckily, you don’t need any age-centric guidance, because we’re here with all the things we wish someone had told us about the financial reality of being a full time student.

Constantly worrying about money can actually affect your mental health

Full-time students are always living on the edge. When an unexpected expense, (even a minor one) can make the difference between making rent or not, everyday stress becomes a lot worse. And we all know that prolonged stress can completely wreck your mental and physical health.

Don’t just take being broke in your stride, guys. If you really need financial help, reach out to the people around you or speak to your tutors about taking a super temporary hiatus from class for a week or two so you can pick up extra shifts. Getting a degree is awesome, but if it means you’ll end up damaging your mental health along the way, there are alternatives out there. Remember that your wellbeing always has to come first.

You’ll have to get good at prioritising what you spend you precious money on

Netflix subscription and lunch for the next week? Essential. Expensive night out with your more resilient friends? Maybe not so much. Money is tight and sacrifices are going to have to be made, which usually comes in the form of less social events.

Combat this by hosting dinner dates with your squad or inviting them over to watch the latest episode of Riverdale, rather than hitting up your local cinema. Hey, at least this way you can openly discuss the mysterious nature of Veronica’s consistently on-fleek eyebrows. We’d call that a win-win.

The broke AF student who is still having a blast image both is and isn’t a myth

It’s true that being a poor student does force you to come up with a lot of creative ways to make life interesting. But there’s also a lot of negatives, apart from the obvious lack of sweet, sweet money. Yet when we think of broke students, we somehow still conjure up an image of someone who is loving life, despite having to live off instant noodles.

The reality of what it’s like to bounce from class to an unpaid internship to a crappy retail job is just a teeny bit less glamorous (OK, maybe a lot less). The myth might get most us through the day, but it can be hard to reconcile this image with the reality of being povo AF. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re not alone.

You’ll feel like you’re failing at life but you’re really not

For me, this one was a biggie. While I was fully prepared that being a full-time student was going to be tough financially, I don’t think I quite comprehended just how much of my life I was going to have to put on hold for a few more years. I felt like a complete failure because of it.

But while my non-uni friends were having grand adventures and splashing around a lot of cash while not actually moving towards any goals, I was going to have a shiny piece of paper in a couple of years that would open doors for me. Think of your state of poverty as a temporary phase after which you will (fingers crossed) be earning more money than you know what to do with.  Goodbye mi goreng, hello gold-plated doughnuts and dream apartment. Ah, we can dream.

Shannon Coward

Shannon Coward is a fourth year Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Queensland. She enjoys period dramas, doughnuts and a good nap.

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