As a high school senior, you find yourself at a very interesting inflection point. You’re wrapping up one chapter of your life and getting ready to start the next. And as bittersweet as this transition may be, now is the time to get your act together. Here are some quick tips you may find helpful:

1. Avoid Massive Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is no big deal, right? (After all, everyone has it.) 

Well, not so fast, my friend. While student loan debt may be “normal,” it’s not something you want to be attached to your name. Leaving schools with tens of thousands of dollars in debt can cripple your finances and prevent you from tapping into the power of early savings and investments. Not to mention it weighs on you emotionally and damages your financial psyche, which may cause you to become cynical about money.

The best way to avoid being shackled by the chains of debt is to find a way to pay for school. (Whether you’re able to pay for 20 percent or 100 percent, every little bit counts). In addition to public grants and university scholarships, keep an eye out for degree-specific scholarships. The Wiley scholarship, for example, provides monthly scholarship money to students pursuing an accounting or finance degree. There are similar scholarship programs out there for other fields of study – seize the opportunity! 

2. Learn How to Budget

As you start to make money in the real world, you’ll need a plan for managing that money with prudence. You can start by learning to budget.

A budget may sound like a scary word, but it’s nothing more than a document that shows you how much money is coming in and going out each month. It allows you to organize your finances, direct your money, and ensure you’re spending less money than what you’re bringing in. 

There are plenty of good budgeting tutorials out there, but this is a good place to start. It’ll give you all of the foundational elements needed to win with money from a very young age. 

3. Discover the Power of Compound Interest

In addition to budgeting, you should get familiar with the power of investing. And if you want to get really excited, begin exploring the topic of compound interest. 

Compound interest has been described as the eighth wonder of the world by Albert Einstein. In layman’s terms, it’s the power of using interest earned on an investment to earn even more interest.

Let’s say, for example, that you have $1,000 in an investment that earns 10 percent annually. (That’s high, but let’s use round numbers.) This would give you $1,100 at the end of the first year. In other words, you have the original $1,000 plus the 10 percent interest earned ($100). That’s referred to as “simple” interest.

But it’s in the second year where things get interesting. Because not only are you earning 10 percent on your $1,000, but you’re also earning 10 percent on the additional $100. So your earnings for this year are $110. 

At first, compound interest seems slow. But over five, 10, or 50 years, it has the power to exponentially increase your money. And if you learn how to leverage compound interest in investing, it can be the magic key that unlocks six- and seven-figure riches by the time you retire. 

4. Be Mindful of Your Friends

There’s a theory that says you become the combination of the five or six people you spend the most time with. In other words, you pick up on how they talk, how they think, what they wear, what they like, etc. Thus if you want to become a certain type of person, it’s important that you spend time with people who are moving in that same direction. (Or who are already there.) Likewise, you should avoid spending a lot of time with people who pull you in the opposite direction. Keep this in mind as you make friends after high school.

Set Yourself Up for Success

It’s easy to assume that the decisions you make today have no impact on your future. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Every little decision you make today becomes part of your story tomorrow. From how you manage your money to the friends you make, you’re about to enter the real world. That isn’t meant to scare you, but it should alert you to the importance of being wise and disciplined. You only get one chance to lay a strong foundation for your life, why not start today?