Personal Finance Interview with Brittney Helmrich for Mint.com
With stereotypes that they charge everything or aren't afraid of splurging on lavish spring breaks in Cancun, college students get a bad rap when it comes to managing their money, says Brittney Helmrich, editor-in-chief of SurvivingCollege.com.
"While there are definitely some students who are irresponsible with their money, I think most of them, especially now, are concerned about the state of the economy and their student loans and take measures to be responsible with it, because everything is so uncertain for them," she says.
With the state of the job market, many current college students are worried about whether they'll find a job after graduating and be able to pay off student loans, this has made them more savvy spenders.
Surviving College tackles topics ranging from finance to fun, offering students a resource and outlet for handling university life and beyond. We recently checked in with Brittney to get insight on the site and learn what makes those Millennials tick.
Tell us a little about Surviving College. When and why was the site created?
My colleague Pamela actually started the site in May 2011 as an intern. Her project was to take the URL and turn it into something popular for college students, and it's been going ever since!
What will we find on the site and who should be reading it?
Surviving College covers everything from parties to papers - basically, we aim to inform and entertain (and entertain while we inform!) our readers. We want Surviving College to be the place where prospective college students, current students, recent grads and 20-somethings can go to get help on maintaining their grades, enjoying their social lives to the fullest, and nailing their dream jobs, as well as a place where they can go to have a laugh when they need a study/work break.
How have you been able to grow your audience since launching the site?
It's been mainly a combination of using social media to promote our pieces and covering very searchable trending topics. Between Twitter, Facebook and more, we've really been able to grow our audience significantly since the website started. I'm also a huge fan of gif-centric posts (kind of like what you'd see on BuzzFeed) because they can turn even the most mundane topics into something fun, and they incorporate pop culture, which is important to college students and generates a lot of traffic.
What types of articles do you find your audience gets most excited about?
What have you learned about Millennials and how to keep them engaged with the site?
Humor is definitely the biggest thing when it comes to the millennial generation - being able to present information in a way that is easy to digest, relatable and entertaining is the best way to keep them engaged.
What advice do you have for other sites or businesses trying to reach out to Millennials?
The best way to reach them is definitely via social media. Your Twitter and Facebook dynamic can really make or break the way people, especially younger generations, see your brand. Being engaging, clever, and friendly on Twitter or Facebook with your customers/readers can really get you far - plus, it's exciting to get retweeted by a brand - it makes people feel like they're important and their opinions matter, which is especially huge for Millenials.
What are the biggest concerns Millennials have about their futures?
I think the current state of the economy stresses Millenials out a lot, especially with student loan payments and how hard it is to get jobs after you graduate. College students, I feel, are less concerned with the far off future (getting married, buying a house, etc.) and more so about landing a job and having job security so they can grow in their career, be able to pay off their student debt, and have something to show for the hard work they put in to school.
Why is it so important that college students think about personal finance and using a budget?
I am actually a budgeting freak. I track my bank account activity daily and I budget everything so that I never have to worry about where my money is going. It's really important, especially to college students and recent grads, because they're either working off a limited budget while they're in school, or trying to figure out their finances upon landing their first jobs. It can be overwhelming if you don't pay attention.
What's the best way to remind students of the importance of these habits?
Like everything with college students, it needs to be easy to digest and conveniently packaged. Students have a lot on their plates with homework, extracurriculars and having a social life - giving them an easy way to track their finances and be responsible is just as important as budgeting in the first place.