Making ‘cents’ during orientation

One of the hardest lessons first-year students have to learn is how to manage their money. For many, starting the year with a positive bank balance, flush with savings from a summer job, can turn into disappointment by the time the winter term arrives. 

Deanna Vexler (right), a third-year student at York’s Schulich School of Business, has learned that lesson. “I’ve been there and done that,” says Vexler. “In fact, I’m still there.”

And, as part of York’s Orientation Week for first-year students, Vexler is giving advice about money management to first-year students. Her half-hour presentations to first-year York students about how to get money for university cover a full range of subjects including scholarships and part-time jobs, and how to hold on to money including discounts for students and good budgeting.

One of her top tips is to look for scholarships and bursaries. When Vexler’s mom pressed her to apply for scholarships a couple of years ago, she applied for a few, and was awarded one in addition to an entrance scholarship. Her only regret is that she did not apply for more.

“If you spend a couple of hours and apply for five scholarships and you get one for $1,000, it’s time well spent,” she tells students in her presentation. “Every dollar you get is a dollar less in loans you’ll have to repay.”

Students often think of the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP), but as Vexler points out there are many scholarships and bursaries available and it’s not too late to apply. She directs them to a variety of Web sites, including York’s Student Financial Services Web site and the Scholarships Canada Web site. 

Tips on everything from buying food with expiry dates that are far into the future to finding a bank with discounted fees for university students are part of Vexler’s presentation. She developed her tips with York’s Student Financial Services office, where she is employed as a work-study student – one of the employment opportunities she promotes to students.

In addition to how to budget for food, computer costs and books, she cautions students not to get caught up in the fashion wars. “People won’t know if the shade of black you’re wearing is last year’s,” she says.

Money management is just one of many presentations being offered to students during a university-wide academic orientation – a new initiative this year that is underscoring the activities organized by York’s colleges.

Frank Cappadocia (right), York’s director of student community & leadership development, says the university-wide academic orientation is a new approach to make sure students get the support they need from the start.

Presentations range from stress management to how to get an “A”. The Learning Support Services office can, for example, teach a student who knows his or her course will have a multiple choice exam, how to study for that type of exam, he says.

“In the first four weeks, there are a couple of things we are trying to ensure – the importance of being on top of your financial situation, trying to understand the academic expectations being put on you by your program, and coming to grips with that reality,” says Cappadocia.

To give students a boost as they go into classes and to conclude Frosh Week, York University will hold the first university-wide York Day on Tuesday Sept. 6 – the day before classes start. In addition to a College Cheer competition (the loudest cheers win), more than 150 booths will be set up to help students learn about a wide variety of clubs and activities at York. York Day begins at 10 a.m. in the main gym of the Tait McKenzie Centre on the Keele Campus. (See the Aug. 29 issue of YFile for more information on York Day.)