Deciding to go to college is a large financial investment and often ends up costing you more than you originally bargained for. Besides tuition, there are a lot of small costs that can quickly add up while you are away at college, possibly leaving you feeling overwhelmed and a little stressed come graduation day. Here are a variety of ways you can save money at college:
Start at a Community College. For your first and second years of college, consider enrolling at a local community college, completing basic courses required for all degrees at a less expensive school. Once you get all of your preliminary courses out of the way, transfer to a more prestigious four-year institution to complete advanced courses in your major field. Just check to make sure that your course credits will actually transfer to your desired four-year university before you enroll.
Plan to graduate on time. Tacking on additional semesters to your 4-year college education will definitely increase your overall tuition costs. Do a little planning before paying more for no reason. Since most colleges charge one price for a standard credit load, take the maximum number of hours you can successfully handle each semester in order to make sure that you graduate on time. While you can’t always know beforehand when you’ll want to drop a class or change your major, planning your class schedules a semester in advance will help you keep track of what courses you still need to take. If you do get behind in your credits, try enrolling in summer courses.
Take Proficiency Examinations. To earn college credit, look into proficiency examination programs, such as the Advanced Placement Program (APP), Provenience Examination Program (PEP), and College-Level Examination Program (CLEP).
Check for Tuition Reduction Plans. Contact your school"s administration office to see if you qualify for any tuition discounts, as some colleges offer reduced costs to children of alumni, students of employees, students with family members attending, and students who work on campus.
Live at Home. If your college is close to your hometown, consider living at home and commuting instead of paying for room and board.
Opt for Less Expensive Housing. If you plan to live on or near campus, consider a variety of living options. You may be able to find a roommate with an apartment near campus and end up paying much less than you would for a dorm room.
Limit Eating Out. Many students end up wasting thousands of dollars on eating out, graduating with loads of unnecessary credit card debt. Eating out on a regular basis is a very costly habit, so consider cooking for yourself at home or taking a packed lunch.
Become a Resident Advisor. Many large schools offer resident advisor (RA) programs that provide financial assistance to students who work in resident halls. An RA program features not only reduced tuition and room and board costs, but is also a great way to make friends and meet people when immersed in a new community.
Buy Used Books. Shop around for your textbooks to try to find used options before settling for the inflated prices offered by campus bookstores. Renting textbooks is also a more economic option.
Create a Budget. For personal expenses, create a weekly or monthly budget and establish spending limits for yourself.
Enroll in an Online Program. Online programs can save a great deal of money, as there is little to no commuting involved or cost of room and board. You can also pace yourself more easily with an online degree program, working full- or part-time while going to school.
Consider Military Service Organizations. If you are interested in military experience, consider the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), which may help pay for your college costs. With a commitment to completing military service after graduation, this program will pay for your tuition and books, also offering additional funding to help cover monthly living expenses.
Look into Cooperative Programs. Many colleges offer cooperative education programs, allowing students to combine college coursework with practical work experience. You can gain valuable professional experience and earn income while completing your required classes.
Research Tuition-Matching. Some private institutions will match the tuition costs of out-of-state schools. Check with your college to see if you qualify for this option.
Save on Entertainment. Going to football games and parties are an unforgettable part of college life, but try to take advantage of free entertainment options as often as possible while going to school. For example, many colleges will offer free or low-priced movie nights on campus once or twice a month.
Save on Travel. When planning a trip, plan far enough in advance to research various discount options, like buying your plane ticket during off-peak times. Also consider alternatives to air travel, such as traveling by train, bus, or even carpool.