What You Should Know About College Students’ Bank Accounts

In general, most people have some financial struggles through college. Sure, it’s possible to get through college without incurring years of debt, but that typically requires a rich family or an incredible stroke of luck. Rather, many college students fight their way through college while struggling with money. But it can be hard to understand the general experience of college financial wellness if you’re only using your own experience and your friends’ experience. With this study regarding how much money students have in their bank account, you can get the real details.

Getting the Numbers

First off, it’s important to look at the numbers. OneClass asked students, “How much money is in your bank account right now?” This number included both checking and savings accounts. Here’s the raw data regarding those answers.

  • $0-$50: 13.5%
  • $51-$500: 22.8%
  • $501-$1,000: 10.5%
  • $1,001-$2,000: 10.3%
  • $2,001-$5,000: 20.1%
  • $5,001-$10,000: 13.0%
  • $10,001 or more: 9.8%

These numbers can be immensely helpful in understanding students’ financial wellbeing. But how do you translate that into actionable information?

It’s Most Common for Students to Have $51-$500 in Their Bank Accounts

Out of all the responses, the most common response was $51-$500, with 22.8% of responses overall. That’s close to a quarter of responses, all pointing to a pretty unfortunate state of financial affairs. $500 isn’t really enough to cover a significant surprise expense, and $51 barely covers a low-cost date night.

True, some of these responses may just be due to bad timing — perhaps an individual just paid bills and will get their paycheck tomorrow. But not all of these responses can be flukes. The fact that this is the most common response means that it’s a very common occurrence overall.

Students Overwhelmingly Don’t Have a Proper Emergency Fund

If you’ve been reading about financial wellness, you probably know about emergency funds. These funds, sometimes called “rainy day funds,” should be able to cover around 3-6 months of expenses, and they’re there in case of an unexpected life event like a layoff or medical emergency.

But 3-6 months of expenses easily amounts to at least a few thousand dollars, and an overwhelming number of students don’t have that. 57.1% of students reported having less than $2,000, which would probably barely cover three months’ expenses in a city with a low cost of living; an incredible 77.2% of students reported having less than $5,000, which would make for a much more substantial emergency fund.

Different Majors Report Different Amounts of Financial Wellbeing

Traditionally, people have seen more math-heavy majors as being more likely to have better financial wellness. The numbers do seem to back that up. Mathematics and Business majors most commonly reported having $2,001-$5,000, while the other majors most commonly reported having $500 or less. The median answers also placed Mathematics and Business majors at the top.

Of course, there may be some antecedents coming into play here. It may be a feedback loop whereby Mathematics and Business majors come out on top because people consistently expect them to be on top. But either way, the fact remains that they’re staying up there.

Third-Year Students Have the Least Money on Average

When comparing students’ years, it turns out that third-year students on the whole have less money than their first and second-year counterparts. This is true for both the most common responses and the median ones.

In general, it may just be that third-year students have started running out of emergency funds and money stashed away in barely-touched savings accounts. It may also be that as college goes on, people are more likely to want to indulge and therefore less likely to save money. Either way, it’s clear that college takes a progressively more intense toll on your financial wellness.


In trying to interpret this study, it’s important that you pay attention to all aspects of it. Obviously, you shouldn’t draw all your conclusions from a single study. Learn more about financial wellness as a whole, and use this information to supplement that knowledge. But overall, it’s definitely interesting to see the impact that college has on its students’ bank accounts and general financial wellness.