It’s officially June which means graduation has happened (or is about to depending where you live) and that means after the Summer graduates, to be more precise – high school graduates may be looking to head off to college. We all know College is the best way to get ahead in life and make money that will support our futures but often times it’s also a way to get into debt and fast!
Let’s face it, College is EXPENSIVE! Some of us are lucky enough to qualify for grants or lucky enough to receive scholarships but what happens when you don’t? You have to borrow money aka Student Loans and there you go you are off to being in debt even before you graduate. Well as a student myself (actually my husband and I are both students currently) I understand this frustration and worry so I want to share some tips on How to Save Money as a College Student. These tips are ones I personally use to Save Money while in college. So here we go!
1. Apply for Grants. So like I mentioned above not all of us qualify for grants but if you do you are lucky. Grants are essentially free money from the government because unlike loans they do not have to be paid back! Of course, you have to meet certain criteria in order to receive these benefits but if you can qualify for it’s completely worth it and it will help pay for schooling.
2. Apply for Scholarships. Like Grants, Scholarships are another form of free money. Scholarships are literally everywhere and just about every business and school offers them. However, these typically take a little more effort on your part because there are so many to apply for and so many people applying at the same time. The best part about Scholarships is you can have as many as you want at one time just as long as they come from different sources. So for example, you apply for 10 scholarships but only get accepted for 5. You can use all 5 during one semester or split them up to help pay for school. Either way, I cannot stress enough how important scholarships are and why you should take as much time as you can to apply for them.
3. Seek money from Family & Friends. Now I know you are probably thinking really? Ask for money? But yes I am telling you to do so. You see often times Family members and Friends are just looking for a reason to help someone out and you can be that reason. Some families even have family members that have hit Jackpot in Bingo and they probably won’t miss a fun hundred dollars. Now I am not saying take advantage of these people but asking doesn’t hurt. Perhaps ask your grandparents if they’d help fund college and you’ll mow their lawn, clean their house, or help drive them around for errands in exchange. It’s a win-win for everyone and I am sure if they know it’s going towards a college education they’d be a lot more willing to help.
4. Check Tuition Reimbursement Policies with your Employer. Another great way to get Free Money is by checking with your employer for tuition reimbursement. Basically this is a program that is set up for employees that want to attend school. Businesses will typically pay a portion of college tuition and reimburse that employee. I say reimburse because most employers will only pay on certain circumstance such as: if they employee is full-time, if the employee is enrolled in a degree recognized by the company, if the employee receives and maintains a certain GPA while in school, etc. Each company is different in their expectations but if they will help for your tuition this is another great way to save money while in school and it doesn’t hurt to ask.
5. Compare Prices & REVIEWS among Possible Schools. Okay so this is something I have done a lot myself – compared pricing of degrees and different schools and compared reviews. Let’s talk about schools first. Each state usually has several university’s and community colleges to choose from. Once you have chosen the degree you want to obtain it’s important to decide which school to attend. The first thing is to consider price. University’s typically cost more opposed to community colleges. However, you can only usually obtain an Associate Degree from a Community College. My advice is to attend the cheaper school at first. I have started at a Community College due to expense and the flexibility of scheduling. I do plan to transfer to a University once I complete my Associates degree. By doing so, I have saved thousands of dollars. The next one is to check reviews. There are so many ways to do this but just Google the school you are considering and it will pull up reviews from current and alumni students. If the school has a bad rep, often times the teachers are bad, the curriculum is bad, and guess what? Your degree could be seen that way as well. If you degree is going to be seen as the way the school is seen you may have a hard time getting a job which means you just wasted money on your college education. So find a reputable school that provides the education you need and the experience you want.
6. Obtain your Books the right way. Obviously once you start college you will need books to study right? Well there are several resources on where you can get your books but only a few ways will actually save you money. Some schools will try to include the books in the price of tuition and they will give you a voucher but what many of you don’t know is you can often decline that offer and tell them you’ll obtain your books yourself. This takes a bold but wise move on your part. For example, my husband is attending a well-known University here in Utah. They offered to include his books in his tuition but we would need to pay about $100.00 monthly since the grants, scholarships, and loans wouldn’t cover that cost. After looking at the “actual cost” for the books I told them to remove that portion off the bill and we’d get the books ourselves. Why did I do this? Well I knew I could get those books for hundreds of dollars cheaper and guess what? I do! How you ask? I purchase his books every semester either from Amazon or I purchase them used online. I even check classifieds on News Stations websites to find the books I need. You can even go to College Bookstores (just check the yellow pages) and purchase them used as well. Often times College Bookstores won’t charge sales tax to boost their sales. Oh and one more way is to form Book Swap Groups. Just find people who have already taken the classes you have and ones that will take the classes you have and all switch books every semester. It’s a great way to save and be green.
7. Use Coupons for Supplies. I am sure you knew Coupons were going to be mentioned in this post and you were right! Coupons is a great way to save. At some point during your college experience you are going to need schools supplies which will include pencils, notebooks, folders, etc. And all of these items go on sale several times a year and we often see coupons for them. The best time to purchase supplies is in July/August right around the time school starts again so my suggestion is to STOCK UP. Get as much as you can and store it away because you can never have enough supplies. Shop sales and stack coupons and you won’t have to pay full price for anything. This will be a huge money saver.
8. Opt to live at home if possible. So now that we got the tuition, supplies, and book costs out-of-the-way we need to cover the room & board issue. If you are moving away to college you probably don’t have much of a choice then to live on campus but if you have a choice, living at home while you are in college is a great way to save money. If you are the college student to be you are probably thinking yeah right, live at home longer? And I am not kidding! Once you move out you are entitled to paying rent, groceries, utilities, gas, etc. and it all adds up. If you can live at home and have a nice, comfortable roof over your head, do it. Even if you end up helping pay a small portion of rent, I am sure it will be a fraction of the cost of living on Campus or living with roommates. Every penny counts! In a few years when you graduate you can look back at all the money you saved while living at home and I am sure you will have friends that will wish they were you. 😉
9. If you must Borrow, Borrow Smart. Okay so the 9th and last thing I think that needs to be talked about it borrowing money or taking out Student Loans. If you have done everything I mentioned above and you are still needing financial help then the last option would be to take out student loans. I just cringe even typing that because it can be a scary thing if you are not careful. Let me start first by saying that Student Loans are a great way to help pay for school (if needed) and they are very common. In fact, I don’t know one person that hasn’t borrowed student loans (including myself). The reason why I said I cringe is because I think people shoot right to this option first without considering other options and before they know it, they have borrowed so much money that once they graduate they are going to have a hard time making ends meet again. Keep in mind that college is supposed to help you get an education which will in hopes get you a better job and better financially stable future. You can’t do that if you graduate with tons of debt. But when you borrow just borrow smart. Check around for the best rates and borrow only what you need. Ask yourself “Will this money now, help me better my situation in the future?” If the answer is “No” then don’t borrow. But if the answer is “Yes” then borrow what you need and try to make sure you borrow with a low-interest rate. The best place to check is a Credit Union. They typically have lower rates and offering better repayment terms.
When borrowing also be sure you understand the terms. Don’t just sign your name and receive the money. Take the time to ask questions and receive answers you understand. There are several different loans options such as unsubsidized or subsidized. The difference in those two words can mean all the difference and can save you money when borrowing so be sure to understand before you borrow.