a blog from CenturyLink

A guide to first phone plans for college students

by | Aug 26, 2022


So you’re off to college and on your own for the first time. You get to jump into the world of adulting—scheduling your own doctors’ appointments, learning the difference between detergent and fabric softener, and choosing your first phone plan. While this can be intimidating, many companies have phone plans for college students to make your journey easier.

In 2021, a study found that 98% of adults in the U.S. that have attended at least some college have a cellphone, with 89% of those being a smartphone. From taking notes in class to communicating with classmates to checking your course schedule, smart technology is a vital part of the college experience. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and what the best phone plans for college students look like.

Phone plans for college students

With CenturyLink, you can bundle your phone and internet bill. You’ll receive unlimited local calling and unlimited Nationwide Calling, internet speeds up to 100 Mbps, and reliable internet with in-home Wi-Fi. Speed may not be available in your area.

4 reasons to have a home phone

Here are four great reasons to have a home phone as a college student. There are home phone plans available to talk to family and friends as much as you like—across the country and internationally.

  • Safety: In an emergency, landline phones identify your exact location, so first responders can send help.
  • Coverage: Home landline phones provide excellent coverage because they rely on phone networks, not towers with spotty coverage.
  • Security: Many security systems require a home phone line because landline monitoring is a more reliable method of sending alarm signals.
  • Quality: Landline phone service gets crystal clear, reliable connections with virtually no delays or lag time.

What to look for in phone plans for college students

College student smiling down at her phone

There’s more to picking your first phone plan than simply finding the cheapest option. While selecting a phone plan can be overwhelming, with so many features and perks to consider, there are some simple steps you can follow. Before you start looking, take inventory of what your internet usage looks like. Do you game or stream? Are you taking online classes? Are you on a social media cleanse? All of these things will factor into what kind of phone plan is best for your lifestyle.

You don’t have to choose a phone plan just to get a new phone. In fact, most plans will allow you to use your existing phone. This not only saves you money, but it’s also the eco-friendly option. However, if your old phone is running slow and it’s time for an upgrade, learn what to do with e-waste.

While shopping for your first phone plan, it’s important to take the following into consideration.

1. Unlimited talk, text, and data

Instead of paying the old-school way, by the minute, make sure your cell phone plan has unlimited talk, text, and data. No matter how much you stream, download, or upload, you’ll pay the same monthly fee. If you don’t use much data or don’t want to pay for unlimited data, most plans come with the option to add extra data for a small fee. If you plan on using on-campus WiFi only, you can also purchase a basic talk and text plan with no data.

CenturyLink has put together a handy guide that helps you understand how much speed you’ll need. There are a few variables to consider, such as the size of your household and what you like to do online.

2. Reasonable cost

College student using her phone

Even though we all want the latest and greatest technology, it pays to shop around before impulse buying. Sometimes you can find a better deal on a phone or phone plan by going to the store in person and speaking with a representative. Make sure to let them know how much talk, text, and data you typically use throughout the school year. That way, they can steer you towards the best phone plan for your lifestyle. Some providers also charge more for additional perks you might not need, so be sure to look at several different plans before choosing one.

Other phone providers offer special plans, such as pre-paying for your phone in advance. With MintMobile, you pay for the first three months up front, which they refer to as buying “wireless in bulk.” As long as you prepay, you get unlimited talk and text with 4GB of 4G LTE data for $15. Deals like this can be a great option for college students on a limited budget.

3. Discounts for college students


Some cell providers offer discounts to college students or for those who have on-campus jobs. It’s important to remember that some college plans are the same price (or more) as traditional plans. Just like any other subscription, make sure to shop around before choosing.

4. Coverage options

Most college students are travelers, commuting between the dorms, class, and work, back home for holidays, and even heading across the world for summer internships. That’s why it’s important your cell plan covers you no matter where your studies take you. Make sure to check if your plan covers calls to other countries if you plan on moving around.

More resources for college students

If you’re a college student looking for more technology resources, check out our college series. Learn about the best apps for college students. If you’re starting out on your own, learn how to leave Family Sharing and how to set up a router in your dorm. What else would you like to see in our college series?

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/emilyr" target="_self">Emily Richey</a>

Emily Richey


Emily Richey is the Content Manager for the CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber blogs. A recent graduate of Pace University NYC, she's an avid reader and writer. She spends most of her free time in bookstores and cafes, seeking the perfect cup of coffee.