Money can be tight for college students — the stereotypical care packages of ramen noodles and cans of soup come to mind. 

Some students know how to handle their money, while others spend theirs carelessly as soon as they get it. 

Most students, however, often face the same problem associated with college — not the course load or sleep deprivation — but the financial situations that come with enrollment.

To Chia-Li Chien, a finance professor and author of “Show Me the Money” and “Walk Toward Reward,” the biggest financial mistake students make in college is not graduating in four years. Earning a bachelors degree should not be a future burden, no matter who is footing the hefty bill, Chien said.

“Unless you are in double majors, bridging courses to qualify for professional certificate exams such as CPA, PE, etc., ... graduating in four years should be [a] student’s top priority,” Chien said. “The longer you are undecided about your degree, the more it’s going to cost. Time is money. It's unnecessary waste for students to prolong the degree.”

For students who need a part-time job to supplement expenses, it’s important to be selective when choosing where to work, Chien said.

"If work is necessary to supplement your tuition and other expenses, align your part-time job with your future career goal,” she said. “Students’ top priority should be getting the best GPA possible and leverage that for a solid career track."

A big expense for students is purchasing books at the beginning of each new semester. Textbooks and access codes aren’t cheap, but are required for many classes. A big mistake college students make is not looking for the best deals. 

Mark Ogle is a graduate student in the economics department. He said he made the mistake of not looking at places other than the campus bookstore to find textbooks.

“I didn’t look at Amazon,” Ogle said. “I didn’t look at more than one source.”

Looking back, another habit Ogle would work on is keeping better track of his money by creating a budget.

One way Ball State prepares its students to handle their own finances in the future is making sure they know the basics of personal finance. Every student is required to complete FIN 101 or FIN 110 as part of their Tier 1 course requirement.

Most importantly, Chien said, students must not spend their money carelessly — especially with the financial obligations that come with getting a higher education. It’s important to think ahead before spending.

“When students are struggling with money ... don’t buy things to make you feel good. Do yourself a favor, stop pretending you are a million bucks when you’re not there yet,” Chien said. “Conserve and save as much as you could to help you build a good money habit.”