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Give Yourself Credit

Your Chance to Make History

Many college students are shielded from the financial demands of living on their own, but that doesn’t mean they can be complacent about their financial futures. One of the most important things the savvy college student can do is establish and maintain a good credit history.

Why does credit history matter? Put simply, it won’t be long before you’re looking for that first job, renting your own place, and possibly buying a car—and your credit history could impact them all!

More and more employers are considering applicants’ credit profiles when making hiring decisions, and landlords typically check credit reports to decide if a person is “lease worthy.” And if you want to make a major purchase such as a car, your credit history will determine what level of interest you’re going to pay on a loan—or whether you get a loan at all.

You can establish a credit history by obtaining a credit card in your name and using it responsibly over time. Rules of thumb: Limit your purchases to those you can pay in total when the bill comes each month; make credit card payments on time—no exceptions; and never exceed your credit limit. And don’t succumb to multiple credit card offers. One card is enough right now.

If you already have a credit card, heed the advice above. If you’ve been turned down, try applying

  • for a local store credit card;
  • for a secured credit card, which requires making a deposit into an account as security for your line of credit; or
  • with a cosigner (maybe a relative with good credit).

These types of cards usually have higher interest rates and possibly application and processing fees. Look at them as a temporary measure. Once you establish a positive credit history for a year or more, you should have no trouble qualifying for a major credit card. But remember, the same “usage rules” apply!

Here's more information on how to manage your credit and other financial issues.

Home Sweet Apartment

Dorm life was great as an undergraduate student, but once you get your degree you will need to find your own place to live. Most students don’t have the funds to purchase a home, and many don’t want to go back to Mom and Dad’s. Most likely, your first post-college pad will be an apartment. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers some helpful tips for renting an apartment:

  1. Prepare your paperwork. Bring a completed rental application; written references from landlords, employers, and colleagues; and a current copy of your credit report.
  2. Review the lease carefully. You could find a provision that’s unacceptable, for example, restrictions on guests, pets, or interior alterations.
  3. Protect your privacy rights. One of the most common misunderstandings arises over a landlord’s right to enter a rental unit and a tenant’s right to be left alone.
  4. Protect your security deposit. Make sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the use and refund of security deposits, including allowable deductions.
  5. Purchase renters’ insurance. Your landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your belongings in your apartment, nor will it protect you if you’re sued by someone who claims to have been injured in your apartment due to your carelessness.

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