Managing Your Finances

“How much money do I need to earn to meet my expenses?”

Making an effective financial plan for your time at Yale begins with knowing how much money you as an individual will need for the coming year. Helpfully, Yale estimates how much money you will need in your financial aid award letter. This estimate is called the Student Effort. In your award letter, the Student Effort can be determined by adding the amounts for the Student Summer Income Contribution and Student Employment. The standard Student Effort for 2017-2018 was $4450 for first-year students and $5950 for upper-level students; for high financial need students, the standard student effort for 2017-2018 was $4450 for first-years and $5050 for upper-level students.

Important: The Student Effort is *not* how much you owe the university. Instead, the Student Effort is the estimate of the amount of money you should try to earn in a given year through summer employment and employment on campus to cover your personal expenses and bills.

Student expenses may include (but are not limited to):

  • Computer, books, and other course materials
  • Expenses related to extracurricular activities
  • Travel to and from Yale
  • Clothing
  • Cell phone and cell phone plan
  • Entertainment
  • Personal expenses
  • Small savings for personal emergencies or unanticipated events
  • The remainder of any tuition, room & board bill after Yale grants and outside scholarships have been applied and your parents have paid their Parent Contribution. For most students, this is the only expense for which you will have to write a check to Yale, and usually it is a small portion of the overall expected Student Effort.

Just as you control how you spend on which school-related expenses (or whether you do), you decide when and how to earn this money.

Potential additional expenses:

For a few families, one potential additional expense beyond those anticipated by the Student Effort is the Hospitalization/Specialty Care Plan. Most families waive enrollment due to having an adequate insurance plan outside of Yale. All students who receive a start-up grant will receive a grant through financial aid to cover the cost of the Hospitalization/Specialty Care insurance. Students not receiving a start-up grant should go to Undergraduate Financial Aid to speak with a counselor to determine what options they may have to assist with the cost of the plan.

Some students may have families that have relied on them to contribute to family expenses during high school and they may need to offer some limited but ongoing financial support to their families. If this is your situation, it is important to discuss with your family how much you can realistically earn and contribute (if anything) over and above the expected student effort. Keep in mind that reducing your financial contribution to family, if possible, while in college may make it more possible for you to increase your financial support after graduation. If you need additional support, reach out to the Woodbridge Fellow or a mentor to discuss things further.

Other students may not have stable family support off-campus and may struggle with obtaining housing and food over breaks. Reaching out to your Residential College Dean and on campus networks, including the Yale Harbor Scholars Program, can make a difference.

If you think it is likely you will encounter any of these additional challenges, consult as soon as you can with trusted deans, advisors, peer counselors, or the Woodbridge Fellow ( for advice on how to manage them. You are not alone. Asking for advice and suggestions about how to manage these issues in the long term and before you find yourself in an acute financial or housing crisis will help provide some relief from worry and stress.

“How can I meet the estimated Student Effort?”

The most common ways students meet the estimated student effort is through summer jobs and student employment during the academic year. The Student Summer Income Contribution and Student Employment amounts in your Financial Aid award letter provide guidelines for how much you should try to earn during the summer and the school year. If you have earned an outside scholarship or grant, those awards can be used to pay down your Student Effort after other bills directly payable to Yale have been covered. Occasionally, students may take on a small student loan to meet this effort.

Any questions you have about your Financial Aid award or paying for your college expenses should be directed to a financial aid counselor at Yale’s Undergraduate Financial Aid office:


Budgeting well is critical towards your success in managing finances without creating additional stress. Your budget may include an itemized list of expenses, such as books, travel, personal expenses, food and leisure, as well as a list of income sources to meet those expenses. Budgeting as a college student can be tricky, as both your income and your expenses can fluctuate from week to week. There may be times in the semester when you have more in your bank account than you need, and other times when you can’t work as many hours as you’d like to academic or extracurricular projects. Therefore, budget with a long-term view. Keep in mind plans for travel and other activities you may need to pay for at the end of semesters, and try to keep as much money as you can in your bank account. You will never know when you might need money for emergencies or unexpected opportunities.

The U.S. Federal Student Aid website offers excellent information, advice, and tools for budgeting. The most important thing is to keep track of your income and expenses on a weekly basis, with an eye towards future big expenses, such as books and materials, travel, and clothing.

For a more in-depth look at managing your finances and budgeting while at Yale, please look at this presentation curated in collaboration with the Academic Strategies Program.