Paying for college can be hard. As a college student, I know what it is like to squeeze every penny for what it is worth. While I have been fortunate enough to receive financial aid, not everyone finds themselves in that situation. Even if you do receive aid, spending less on school means that you can spend more on other things. Saving money is always a good thing. Which is why I am compiling this list of the top five ways to save money on college.
Go to a Public University
It goes without saying that attending a public university is much cheaper than attending a private university. In South Bend, a student at Notre Dame pays approximately $50,000 a year. For the same degree at Indiana University South Bend, you would pay around $5,000. Over the course of a four year program, that is $200,000 worth of debt from attending a private school. Forget about grad school. You already have a debt load that will be about equal to your eventual mortgage.
Live at Home
The second biggest expense aside from tuition is undoubtedly room and board. You can cut this expense out entirely if you just live at home with your parents. This won’t be an option for everyone if your campus is too far away from home, but even then, you could opt to attend the local community college for a couple years before you transfer to a larger university. This will save you a lot of money. Just make sure that your credits will transfer.
Buy Books Online
Textbook prices are out of control. At my school, the bookstore was sold to Barnes & Noble. Since it is a for-profit venture, prices have only gone up. Even supplemental material will cost you an arm and a leg. Each semester I spend roughly $500 on books. Instead of buying at your local bookstore, purchase your books on Amazon.com. Sometimes you will save as much as $50+ off the bookstore price. That can quickly add up into the hundreds. Even better yet, if you spend $25 or more on Amazon, you get free shipping. Of course if you buy used textbooks, you will save even more. Ask your professor if you can buy older editions, as they are usually only a fraction of the cost (sometimes as cheap as $10 or $20).
Cook at Home
College students don’t realize how expensive food is until they’re out of the house. Buying groceries at the local store is a lot cheaper than eating out at Chipotle or ordering Papa John’s. Instead of buying Starbucks coffee before class, see if your campus has a cafe. It will surely save you a few bucks. It’s a common stereotype that in college you will eat a lot of Ramen noodles, but this generation is a lot less thrifty in that respect than past ones. Easy access to credit cards (at least until the recession started) has made the problem of eating out worse for college-age adults.
Seek Financial Aid
This one is obvious, but is often overlooked. Many people think that they don’t qualify when they probably do. Others have a misconception that you have to pay it back. Keeping it simple, remember that loans you have to pay back, grants and scholarships you don’t. For most forms of financial aid (grants), you need to fill out a FAFSA, which basically is a short online form detailing your income. For scholarships, you will have to contact your local university as these are often specific to different states and communities. The last option is the student loan, which is a low interest loan from the federal government which does not need to be paid back until you graduate. As a last resort, this is a good option.
Have more tips? Leave them as comments below!