10 Tips to Help You Pay For College

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  • Are you starting college this year or have you recently started? One of your biggest worries, along with keeping up with your classes and getting used to living away from home, is probably how you’re going to pay your way through your education.

    The idea of being in total control of your own finances for the first time can be rather overwhelming, but it can be done. With a little ingenuity and hard work, money worries at college can be a thing of the past.

    Reduce Your Textbook Bill

    The price of new textbooks can be daunting, and you’ll feel as if you’ll have to buy them all and bankrupt yourself before you’ve even begun. However, there are ways around this. Books in the public domain can be picked up for free as ebooks, and many libraries will offer rental services on textbooks for a fraction of the price of buying them. Even better, pick a senior in your subject and ask them what books they needed. You’ll probably find you can weed much of your reading list out. Don’t forget to sell your books back at the end of the semester, either.

    Consider Becoming an RA

    With housing being one of the most costly parts of college, becoming a resident advisor could drastically reduce that bill. Room and board is often free or significantly reduced for RAs, with the bonus of it being valuable work experience to draw on once you graduate.

    Use the Free Amenities

    The College Board reports the average student spends $1,989 on entertainment and other amenities that they could have had for free on campus. Look into what your college can offer you. Many have free movie rentals from the library, gym memberships and student clubs. Don’t spend your precious cash on things your college is simply giving away.

    Financial Aid

    Most colleges will have financial aid and scholarship programs in place. However, it’s worth looking for the more unique, unusual scholarships out there as they may be right for you. For example, Chick-fil-A has a fund dedicated for the education of its employees. Hunt around and see if you’re eligible for these offshoot aid programs.

    Resist the Credit Cards

    To a struggling college student, a credit card can often feel like free cash when you need it the most. However, think carefully before you use it. When you charge something to a card, you’re not just paying for the item, you could end up paying the interest on top of it. Hide that card away and use it only in dire emergencies. Remember, pizza is not an emergency.

    Use Your Student Discount

    Remember, your student ID will let you lay claim to many discounted goods and services, including movie tickets and college essentials. You can even use it for travel tickets, making traveling home easier on the wallet during the holidays.

    Take Part in Online Programs

    If you’re still looking around colleges, it’s worth investigating whether you have to get in a physical program at all. Online college courses are becoming more commonplace as new technology makes it possible, and for many people it may well be a better option. It’s also becoming easier to gain financial aid to help pay the tuition fees; check out the places you can find financial aid for online education.

    Consider Community Colleges

    Another money-saving option, if you’re still considering colleges, is to undertake your initial courses at a local community college. Community colleges are often cheaper than traditional institutions, so you can save money on the basic courses you’ll be required to do, before transferring your credits to another college to pursue your specialism.

    Staying Home

    The traditional image of attending college is to move away from home and start anew, but more students are now choosing colleges close by and staying home while they complete their studies. Doing this can ensure you save on costs such as rent and laundry, as well as keeping you with your existing support network. With the average student debt being around $30,000, it may be worth looking at ways to save cash now.

    Get Job Hunting

    The end of your college days may feel far away, but it pays to start thinking about them now. The average post-grad job hunt can take anywhere from 3-6 months, so getting them out of the way while you’re still at college means you’ll avoid up to six months of joblessness once you graduate.

    At the beginning of your college career, there’s so much to think about it’s easy to overlook some of the most basic, yet important, things. Having a plan for your money will take a huge amount of stress off you, leaving more room for socializing and, of course, studying for your degree. Follow our tips and saving the pennies will be easy.

    After spending the best three and a half years of her life at Penn State, Sarah Landrum couldn’t tear herself away from the appeal of college. A couple weeks after graduation she founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate college and the work world. Follow Sarah for more advice @SarahLandrum

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