Activity idea: The Effect of Peer Pressure on Your College Finances

Sep 05, 2018
Behavioral Finance, Activities, Budgeting, Parent Conversations

During the college application process, students are told over and over again by family members and teachers that there are clear steps to follow:

1. Maintain a competitive GPA
2. Take plenty of AP courses
3. Score well on the SAT
4. Partake in lots of extracurriculars

It’s easy to see why so many students obsess over GPA, sign up for SAT prep courses, and take on extra AP classes during their junior and senior year.

Perhaps it’s because money is such a taboo that students are rarely told the list of steps to follow in order to successfully manage their personal finances. Family members and teachers might even feel shame about their own financial mistakes. But the reality is that if personal finance tips aren’t shared, we don't learn them and instead we figure it out through costly mistakes.

This is why my “Let’s Talk About Money” workshops at high schools is SO important to me! Last week, I visited several schools in San Jose and East Palo Alto, California to talk with juniors and seniors right in the thick of the college search process. We spent every minute discussing how to navigate personal finance in and after college.

Student engagement was at its highest point during the “Financial Peer Pressure” role play and discussion. For this activity, I presented students with a few college scenarios in which they’re tempted to spend money they may not have. Here's one:

“You’re in a business class and the professor assigns tough assignments so you often join study groups. The people you meet there are smart and cool. They propose group bowling on Saturday and everyone gets excited. You know that you don’t have enough money, but everyone’s going. What do you say?”

Some students chose to role play this scenario and others discussed in pairs or small groups. After independent work time, I asked students to share out reflections and solutions with the whole group. This post-activity discussion was my favorite part because I could tell that students were extremely tuned in!

We generated lots of different ideas such as borrowing money from a friend or family member or using a credit card and paying off the balance later. Some students even said they’d pretend to be busy just to save money. Not everyone agreed with each other’s opinions, and that was the beauty of the exercise. Students had the opportunity to hear lots of different ways of thinking about money and were able to collaborate to find solutions to real money problems they’ll be facing very soon.

Students were still talking about the scenarios as they walked out of class and many of them now have new money perspectives after the activity. I just wish I’d had the chance to develop my beliefs and attitudes about money so early in life!


About the Author

Yanely Espinal

Born and raised by Dominican, immigrant parents in Brooklyn, Yanely is a proud product of NYC public schools. She graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in 2007 before going on to receive her bachelor's degree at Brown University in 2011. As a Teach For America corps member, Yanely taught third and fourth grade in Canarsie, Brooklyn. She received her master's degree from Relay Graduate School of Education in 2013. She spends her spare time making YouTube videos about personal finance on her channel, MissBeHelpful. Yanely also loves to dance, sew, paint, listen to podcasts, and babysit her soon-to-be 7 nieces and nephews!