Challenge Your Seniors with this NGPF College Budget Activity!

Subtitle…How to build a college budget in one hour or less!

Don’t let your college-bound seniors out the door until they have a handle on their freshman year finances. And, for your underclassmen, getting them them acquainted with the expenses of college might make them think twice before burning through summer job paychecks. Jessica, our curriculum guru at NGPF, has developed an engaging college budgeting activity (everything needed to run this activity can be found by clicking the link) that will equip your students with the skills they need to start their college years on sound financial footing.

The activity debuted this week at Castilleja School in Palo Alto to rave reviews. When we asked students about actions they would commit to based on what they learned at the workshop, here’s what they said (we love when this stimulates parental conversations!):

  • “Oh, wow. I just kind of assumed my parents would keep paying most of my expenses, but I need to clarify with them. That might not be true anymore. We need to talk.”
  • “This budget makes me want to work during college, so that I have spending money. But then I have to balance that with doing well in all my classes, so I can’t take on too many hours.”
  • “I could actually make a real college budget using the spreadsheet from the workshop.”

The lesson begins with a quick discussion prompt asking students how a college budget will differ from how they spend their money now (hint: you will have to buy your own toiletries!).  Next, students watch a short video and skim an article to start to generate ideas about how to effectively create a college budget.  

The heart of the activity is a budget worksheet that works in conjunction with a presentation that walks students through a series of decisions that go into building a budget, including:

  • Deciding whether to get a part-time job at college and understanding the tradeoffs between hours worked and academic (and social) performance
  • How much to put into an emergency fund
  • Over 20 other spending decisions with choices for each one to teach your students about tradeoffs, needs vs. wants, how much things cost in the “real-world” and what it takes to outfit a college dorm.  

Once students have made their choices and input them into a spreadsheet, the moment of truth has come: deficit or surplus?  Students jot their results down on a post-it note and come to the front of the class to create a histogram to see how how individual student results compared. Next, students who have deficits must go back to revise their budgets and get them into a surplus situation. Those who have surpluses are asked to complete a series of budget reflections.  Finally, the class is brought back together to nail down the key takeaways for the activity.  Enjoy!