There’s no getting around the fact that higher education is expensive. A lucky few are able to nab full-tuition scholarships that cover the cost of attendance, but you can’t rely on this outcome with stiff competition for scholarships funds.
Certainly you should be able to get some assistance with a combination of help from your parents, financial aid, and grants, but this may not entirely cover the expenses associated with earning a college degree, and many students are loath to get bogged down with student loan debt. So what can you do to avoid racking up outrageous bills when you go to college?
You’re not the first student to ask this question, and the good news is you have myriad options to explore when it comes to cutting the cost of college. Here are a few strategies you might want to employ.
- Apply for Scholarships
Okay, so you weren’t awarded any scholarships prior to starting college. That doesn’t mean you should stop applying.
There is no shortage of scholarships offered by schools, businesses, and private individuals and students can continue applying for them throughout their college career. Even if you’re only awarded a few hundred dollars, it could pay for your books for a semester.
Every little bit helps, so keep applying for scholarships as a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Maybe you’ll only get a bit of money, but you definitely won’t get any if you don’t apply.
- Consider Housing Options
Dorms tend to be cheaper than living off campus, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore alternative living situations. Take the time to look at rental costs nearby and estimate other living expenses like utilities, food, and transportation.
You may find that by renting a house with roommates you can actually reduce your overall costs, saving you some money while you’re in college.
- Never Pay Full Price for Textbooks
It’s true that buying textbooks on campus is easy, but this is probably your most expensive option. If you’re lucky you can find used copies, but with so many textbooks releasing new editions annually, this might not be an option.
Instead, look for reduced prices online, compare the cost of renting versus buying, and think about sharing costs with your classmates. By downloading a digital version and sharing with peers, you could significantly reduce the purchase price of every textbook.
- Look for Discounts and Deals
Not only can you shop at thrift stores and buy dry goods in bulk at warehouse discount stores, but you should also take advantage of student discounts on everything from entertainment (movie tickets, museum admission, etc.) to dining and travel. With your student ID (or student status) you stand to save on all kinds of purchases just by asking.
- Consider Community College
No matter where you go to school, your first two years of coursework are going to focus on general education. You may take a handful of prerequisite courses for your intended major, but by and large you’ll spend your time getting the basics out of the way.
Why would you pay beaucoup bucks when you can take the same basic classes at community college at far less expense? In addition to the money you’ll save, there are other benefits.
Consider your grades. If you come out of high school with a GPA or test scores that aren’t as high as you like, you may not have a chance of getting into your school of choice. Spending two years at community college gives you time to improve your GPA and perhaps nail down your major.
It could also give you a better shot for admittance – as an incoming junior you’ll have far less competition than you would as a freshman, and many schools are more likely to take you simply because you have already proven a commitment to attending college. You just have to make sure your credits will transfer.