Not to alarm you, but college is going to cost you a lot of money.
Okay, so it's no shocker that college and money go hand-in-hand. And you've probably already accepted that college is going to cost you a nice chunk of change. Hopefully, you've made it a point to search for scholarships, apply for financial aid, and find other ways to reduce your college costs.
But one thing you should without a doubt be doing during college is taking advantage of all the amazing resources and opportunities that are available to you only while you are in college. These perks vary by college, so you'll need to do a little bit of digging. Spend some time on your college's website, attend any orientations if you're new, and ask around.
Whatever you’re buying, chances are there is a cheaper student rate for it. You can find a student discount on just about everything, such as car insurance, hotels, clothing, computers, entertainment, and restaurant meals.
Always carry your valid student ID with you, and don’t be afraid to ask, "Do you offer a student discount?" You’d be surprised at how many places don’t necessarily advertise it, but do indeed offer a student discount.
Student discounts are going to be especially prevalent at businesses surrounding your school. Fish around on your college website to see if they offer a complete list of discounts available to you.
At least every semester, you should be meeting with your academic advisor. Your advisor is a valuable resource who can end up saving you thousands of dollars.
Planning out your courses may not be as easy as it sounds. If you've been in college for a bit, you know that more often than not, there's a prerequisite that you need to take prior to taking another class. Also, some classes may only be offered during certain semesters. If you're planning to graduate in the spring semester, but that one class you needed to graduate is only offered in fall, you could be stuck staying back an entire semester for that one class.
Your advisor can help you plan your courses so you’re not taking a class you don’t need, and you’re taking the classes you do need at the right times.
An advisor who's in your academic department can also help you locate valuable resources such as a tutor if you’re struggling, opportunities to tutor if you’re looking to build your resume, internship opportunities, or other opportunities, such as a teaching assistant position.
An advisor is also a good resource if you're considering doing an internship and would like college credit for it. Many internships legally require you to earn college credit for your work, especially if it is unpaid.
It’s never too early in your college journey to pay a visit to your career services office. Whether you’re looking for a job now or preparing for one down the road, this is a great place to start. Here are some of the services commonly offered at a college career department:
- Scoring a part-time job: First of all, they may connect you with part-time jobs available on campus, and they’re your go-to place if you’re able to participate in work-study. Working on campus has a few big benefits: It's close by so commuting isn't a problem and, chances are, the schedule will be since they understand that you're a student. Landing a job is a great way to reduce your student loans while you're still in school. Plus, you're gaining experience, time management skills, and building a resume that can help you land an internship or job.
- Landing an internship: What does this department offer in terms of internships? They may have an internship job board or be able to put you in contact with various businesses looking for interns.
- Internship and job search assistance: Mock interviews, resume writing help, and guidance on your portfolio are just a few of the services that could make your job or internship search less stressful. Most colleges offer internship and job fairs throughout the year to bring your potential employer to you.
Every college is different, so stop by your career services office as soon as you can to see how they can help you.
Financial Aid Counselors
Regularly visiting your financial aid department is a high priority throughout college. Here are some of the things they may be able to help you with:
- Finding scholarships: Scholarships are free money that you do not have to pay back. Any amount you receive is that much less you are going to owe in student loans. Your financial aid department may be able to tell you about scholarships offered through the college and also point you in the right direction to find more.
- Applying for financial aid: Even if you don’t think you’re going to qualify for aid, filing out the FAFSA and applying for financial aid should be on every student's to-do list. This can determine if you’ll receive any grants (money you do not have to pay back), are eligible for work-study, and if you’re eligible for federal loans. You’ll want to opt for these federal loans before turning to a private lender since federal loans often offer lower interest rates, and they’re usually eligible for more borrower benefits such as student loan forgiveness, income-based payment plans, and deferments.
- Understanding your student loans: If you're utilizing loans to fund your college education, chances are you have more than one. One key to not racking up a mountain of debt and being able to manage it once you’re in repayment, is understanding your loans. If you have any questions related to your loans, this is the place to visit.
- Personal finance guidance: See what other services your financial aid department offers. You might find that there are presentations on various personal finance issues such as budgeting, paying taxes, and learning how to save money.
Regardless of where you go to school, chances are there will always be something going on around campus. You have the rest of your life to spend money on pricey events and activities. Now is the time, when you probably have limited funds, to take advantage of free and cheap entertainment.
Movie showings, art exhibitions, concerts, comedians, on-campus plays and musicals, sporting events, and guest speakers are just a handful of possibilities. Check out your school's calendar of events online and, if they offer it, follow your college's student life department on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.
Traveling is something you can do at almost any time in your life, but it will never be the same as studying abroad while in college. Studying in another country is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, create life-long memories and friendships, experience something totally out of your comfort zone, and, as those who study abroad often discover, take the time to figure out where you want to go from here.
Besides the more emotional and personal benefits of studying abroad, the experience can help set you apart on your resume. Studying abroad shows independence, responsibility, and adaptability. You'll see the world while also knocking off college credits, and if you do it right, you can end up saving money.
Clubs and other extra-curricular activities are the perfect way to build your resume, network with like-minded people, and meet both professional and social contacts, and explore an area you're interested in and, hopefully, genuinely enjoy.
Getting active on campus is a productive form of free entertainment. Visit the student life department to see what clubs are available to you.
Take time to get to know teachers who are willing to get to know you. Visit your professor during office hours to ask questions and increase your knowledge. It depends a lot on your professor, but you can also get excellent academic and career advice, and possibly even a letter of recommendation or job connection down the road.
You can’t put a value on friendships you create during college. But besides meeting people you enjoy hanging out with, these relationships could also be beneficial to you in the future. You’d be surprised how the connections you make in classes and around campus could lead to job opportunities down the road.
Ask friends you’re in classes with to connect on LinkedIn. If you've worked together at a job or on class projects, they can write you a recommendation.
When you're in your major classes, take a second to look around. This is a rare opportunity where you're surrounded by peers that share the same interests, passions, and knowledge. Collaborating with them can be a great experience and a chance to learn new things and let your passion flourish.
Sure, it’s a good place to study when your roommate is feeling extra talkative, but there is a lot more to that library than you think. If possible, once you know what books are required for your semester, see if they are available at the library. CollegeBoard.org estimates that textbooks can cost you $1,200 per academic year, so think of what you’ll be saving if you could opt for the library textbooks instead of purchasing them.
Your library may also offer various search databases that you'd otherwise have to pay for, not to mention magazine subscriptions. You might also be able to take advantage of events such as visiting authors, writing workshops, and guest speakers.
Does your college offer a computer lab? If so, this could save you from purchasing a new computer. Even if you can't do without your own personal computer, it may save you the cost of a printer and ink or specific software that you might only need for one class.
At the minimum, a gym membership is going to cost you between $200 and $400 per year, depending your gym of course. So if you have one on campus, take advantage of your college's fitness center.
Use the workout equipment, join intramural sports to make new friends, and attend any classes they might offer. For example, your fitness center could offer classes on CPR training. This not only is beneficial to you in case you're in an emergency, but if you're going into any field related to health, child care, or education, this can be a nice gold star on your resume.
If your college doesn't have a fitness center, ask around to see if local gyms offer a discounted rate for student memberships.
Your college very well may have some type of health services department. This can give you access to things like free or discounted health care, birth control, or cheaper prescriptions.
College is a stressful period in your life, so if you find the need to speak to a therapist, you might just find one on campus willing to help you for free or for a much cheaper price.
The health services department may also offer free nutrition counseling, STD screenings, and health talks. Visit your health center to see what they offer students.