The 10 smartest things to do with your money in college

The college years fly by, and before you know it, you’re thrown into the real world.

It’s important to get a head start on building sound financial habits before this point, but how do you do that as a full-time student, when you might not be working and making a consistent income?

Here are ten smart places to start:

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Don't stop applying for scholarships once you've been accepted.

Continue seeking financial aid.

Many students believe scholarships are not open to enrolled students, but this is a costly misconception.

There are many scholarships awarded to sophomores, juniors, and even seniors, so take the time to research and apply for various opportunities. Start by visiting your school's financial aid office and searching online. Sites such as College Board, Fastweb, and Scholaroo are also good places to start. Then, hunker down and start applying.

Many scholarships have deadlines in January, so keep that in mind as you're filling out applications and gathering recommendations and other necessary materials.

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Consider opening a credit card account to start building credit -- just be diligent with your payments.

Establish credit.

While often overlooked or forgotten about, building good credit early on is essential. It will allow you to make big purchases later on, such as insurance, a car, and a home.

There's no better time to start than college. 'It's easier to establish credit in college rather than wait and try to do so afterwards,' says Jonathan Meaney, a certified financial planner and wealth manager at Carter Financial. He says he has seen many cases of young people waiting to apply for credit cards until after college and being rejected because of their lack of credit.

If you're going to open a card, though, it's important to establish smart credit card habits and be diligent in your payments. It's not unheard of for college students to open credit card accounts for the free tee-shirt, rack up a huge balance, and land themselves into debt before they even graduate. Start by looking into great credit card options for students rather than jumping on the one that offers up the free tee.

Meaney recommends opening up a credit card, setting up at least one automatic payment, and not using the card for much else -- that way, the account will stay open, and you won't risk falling into dangerous credit card habits.

There are also other effective ways to build credit without opening a credit card if you want to bypass the card altogether during college.

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Start investing in quality goods, such as a nice suit you'll have for years.

Buy quality.

College is a good time to start investing in things that have value. While it may be hard to part with your cash, some things are worth spending money on, such as a nice interview suit or winter coat. Check out Business Insider's guide to smart purchases to make in your 20s.

Quality purchases don't necessarily mean big-ticket items; there are several everyday items to invest in that can pay for themselves in a short amount of time, such as a commuter bike or coffee maker.

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