Game of Life Teaches Students About Budgeting and Everyday Expenses After Graduation

During Champlain College’s Game of Life, first-year students are are turned loose in a room full of options after they are assigned salaries based on their majors. They visit booths that offer entertainment, groceries, transportation, insurance, pet care, clothing, and more. To play the game, students make choices about these everyday expenses, and develop a monthly budget. After they’ve made their way around the room, the students balance their budgets and meet with financial counselors to discuss their decisions and learn about things like cost of living, employee benefits, income taxes, student loan installments, retirement plans, and other personal finance topics.

At the end of the Game of Life, students meet with financial counselors to discuss their decisions and learn about cost of living, employee benefits, income taxes, student loan installments, and retirement plans. Photo by Duncan Persons, ‘19 // Communication.

“Many of these students realize that they actually can’t afford the things they chose, and they might have to go back and get a roommate or decide to take public transportation instead of buying a car,” says John Pelletier, Director of Champlain’s Center for Financial Literacy, whose office contributes to and supports the program.

So what makes the Game of Life so special? It is a low-pressure way for students to explore what their financial future could look like after graduation. Plus, because students do it in their first year, everyone has plenty of time to reevaluate their goals and sharpen their personal finance skills over their remaining years at Champlain. They will graduate having a personal budget allocation plan already in place.

During the Game of Life budgeting simulation, students are assigned salaries based on their majors, visit booths that offer life essentials and nice-to-haves, and make choices about their expenses in order to balance their budget at the end of the game.

Champlain College has made quality personal finance education an essential and mandatory part of their curriculum. The Game of Life falls under Champlain’s unique InSight program—a four-year career and financial education that’s overseen by Champlain’s Career Collaborative. InSight teaches students the skills and strategies to position themselves in their careers and manage their personal finances. It ensures every student graduates with:

  • A professional résumé and cover letter targeted to the student’s career goals.
  • An up-to-date, polished LinkedIn profile.
  • A 30-second elevator pitch response to, “Why should we hire you?”
  • A budget allocation report based on projected salaries for careers related to the student’s major.
  • A cost of living analysis based on the geographic location of the student’s prospective jobs.
  • A credit plan identifying steps to improve the student’s credit profile.
  • A personalized student loan repayment plan.
Champlain hosts some of the largest and best attended Career Fairs in the state of Vermont. During the Fall and Spring Career & Internship Fairs, Champlain welcomes more than 150 employers to campus, including numerous Champlain alumni.

The InSight program creates career-ready students who have connections in their field and confidence in their skills. The students receive feedback well, feel empowered to manage their finances, and understand how to market themselves. The unique career and financial focus of the InSight program allows students to understand the financial implications of making career-related decisions and vice versa.

“There’s really no other program like it in the world,” says Dr. Tanja Hinterstoisser, Director of Career Education & Employer Relations. “We teach students how to articulate their competitive advantage and offer a tangible value proposition to prospective employers. When you add in the personal finance education, what we offer is truly unique. It enables our students to build a steady foundation for a purposeful life post-graduation. It helps them live meaningful lives, and reach both their personal and professional goals.”

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