How To Save Money At College

By MoneyLion

Heading off to college? Congrats! As you’re probably all too aware, going to college requires quite a large commitment in the finance department. From room and board to food to books to extra-long sheets, beaucoup purchases are in store. 

Don’t worry — We’ve got 12 tips to help you save money at college so you can stress less and study more. And enjoy yourself too!

Apply For Scholarships And Grants

There are a ton of scholarships and grants available to students looking to save on college tuition, but you have to know where to find them. The U.S. Department of Labor has a free, super easy online tool to search for scholarships. 

Most of the time, you can find merit-based grants that are rewarded for academic achievements. A scholarship follows the same guidelines, but there are some unconventional scholarships out there — like this silly Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship. But hey, it’s still money off your tuition and that’s the goal here!   

Apply For Financial Aid

Federal Student Aid is a government program funded by taxpayers that helps alleviate the financial pressure placed on you when attending college. To briefly explain, after you apply, you may be eligible for grants — which you don’t have to pay back — or you may be approved for loans —- which you do have to pay back. 

What you are approved for depends on many factors, but keep in mind that you don’t want to take out any unnecessary loans just because they are available to you.

Interest can start accruing after college or when you take out the loan, depending on which loan type you choose. Calculate your expected expenses (try this college cost calculator) and borrow responsibly! 

Take Your Prerequisites At A Community College

Community college and university tuitions vary greatly even though they offer a lot of the same courses. If you want to graduate from a certain university, that’s great! You still can even if you start your first year at a community college. The average cost for a year at a community college is around $3,000, whereas a year at a university is around $9,000.

Taking your prerequisites the first year at your local community college can really offset tuition for you, potentially saving you $6,000.  

Choose An In-State College

Attending a college in your home state can help you save in more ways than one. For starters, in-state and out-of-state tuitions are charged differently. The average difference is around $9,000! That means  that out-of-state students pay $9,000 more for the same exact education as students who are permanent residents of the state.

Another upside to sticking with in-state is being close to home. Think about when you’re hungry and don’t feel like cooking or need to get laundry done but don’t want to spend two hours (and many quarters) at the laundromat. You can sneak home for a free meal and do your laundry while you’re at it. 

Stay In Touch With Your Advisor

Curriculum and credit hours can change while you are in college, so make sure you aren’t taking any unnecessary courses and that you make any schedule changes before the cut-off dates. We know firsthand that you can end up taking an additional semester of college in order to graduate if you aren’t connecting with your college advisor often enough. College is expensive enough; you don’t want to have to pay for more semesters than you need to! 

Find The Best Deals On Books And Supplies

The bookstore at your college will likely have everything you need, but it’ll come with an upcharge for the onsite convenience. To save money on books, try renting them through Amazon or Chegg for a fraction of what a new book costs. Check sites like Ebay for used books and supplies as well. If you have a Kindle, you can rent an e-book, which is also much cheaper than buying a brand new book from your college. 

Use Your .EDU Email for Discounts

As a college student, you’ll get a .edu email address and student ID when you enroll your first year. Use this to your advantage and save. Some restaurants, attractions and retail stores offer discounts if you present your ID or join their mailing list with your .edu email. You can also use your student email for subscriptions like Apple Music, Adobe or Amazon Prime. A regular Amazon Prime membership is $119 for the year, but with a student email, it’s $49.99. 

Plan Your Meals

Take turns planning and cooking meals with your friends or roommates. Pick a day of the week and commit to providing dinner for your suitemates, sit back, and relax when they return the favor. You can also try meal prepping for the week so you don’t spend any money on last-minute meals. 

It helps to set a budget for everyone to follow. That way, no one will feel annoyed if, for example, they make steak when it’s their turn but you make a frozen pizza when it’s your night. Pick a happy medium price range!  

Use Campus Resources

Your college campus can offer you more than just a classroom. Save on a gym membership and use the one on campus instead. Check out books or print resources at your school library for a fraction of the cost offered by off-campus businesses. Attend the free events that are offered around your campus like job fairs and even campus wide celebrations. See if you have access to the college health clinic and save yourself a trip to the doctor who charges a copay! 

Share Your Room

Whether it’s the dorms or a campus apartment, sharing your room instead of having one to yourself could save you tons of money every year. Splitting rent with a roommate or two also allows you to share other household necessities like kitchenware or furniture. Being responsible for all of that on your own adds up so it’s better to share while you’re in college. 

Always Have A Side Hustle or Gig

College coursework, studying and going to class probably won’t leave you with a ton of free time, but try to work in a side hustle on your terms. Jobs like Uber, Door Dash or Insta Cart are things you can do in your spare time or when it works best for your schedule. Save your side hustle money and invest it into an account that will grow until you’re ready for graduation.

Test Out Of Classes

You may be able to skip some of your prerequisite classes by testing out of them. Essentially, you take a standardized test on the subject like Math or English, and if you pass, you get the credits for the class. You will likely have to pay a fee to take the test, but it’ll be much cheaper than the full course tuition price. Ask your college advisor about your options or check the school’s website.

Life After College

Use these tips to save money while you’re in college, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much it helps when you’re done. Share when you can rent instead of buy, meal prep instead of order out, and use the resources available to you. Be careful with student loans and apply for as many scholarships as possible to help with your tuition. Investing in your education is just as important as investing in your finances, we know you’ll do a great job. 

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