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Tips and Tricks For The Budget-Savvy College Student

You’re in! Acceptance to that college you have been dreaming of has now become a reality. Then it hits you – how are you going to afford this? Well, it’s easier than you might think! However, it does require careful planning and strategy. You cannot simply show up on the first day of school and expect to “figure it out as you go”. Taking a few precautions and implementing a few strategies can help you become a budget-savvy college student.

Where Does the Money Come From?

First, let’s look at financial assistance at the college level. Financial aid officers are like your guidance counselors in high school, but on a much larger scale. Your financial aid office should be your new best friend. Their job is to guide and educate students about the many financial options available. So, make sure to get acquainted with them! Students are often unaware of the many options available to them in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, etc.

One other thing many students don’t know is that funding opportunities can be available outside of the financial aid office as well. Your program’s office may also have scholarships or grants available that are specific to your major, so make sure you make it a goal to try to find out about all funding opportunities, so you can make an informed decision about which to pursue. Becoming knowledgeable about all of these options is a great way to start giving yourself a realistic idea of what your education will cost.

Time to Explore

Next, explore your college campus. Do you really need a car to get around? What transportation options are available? Many campuses are like an all-inclusive resort. There is literally no need to go off campus for your everyday needs. In situations like this, students can save themselves the cost of a car payment, car insurance, gas, and repairs by using public transportation. Many campuses even offer free or low cost shuttle services to get students around campus quickly and hassle-free! Also, ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft offer discount rates to college students, so do the math… is it cheaper to own a car or to use alternatives?

To Work, or Not to Work? That is the Question!

There are some pros and cons to working while being a college student, which need to be taken into account. Will it affect your study or class schedule? How will taking certain jobs which require certain hours impact your social life? Aside from social life, team projects may also be impacted by when and where you work. Will this job be something related to your major, or will it be a side gig to earn some extra cash? Also, will the position be on campus or off campus? There may be many perks to taking jobs on campus, such as not having to commute, interacting with students, staff and faculty of your campus community, and perhaps an increased chance that you will be engaged in other activities and know “what’s happening” on campus.

Determined that you want to get a job? Then it’s time to explore your options.  Check with, or better yet, visit the career center at your campus to see if any job opportunities are posted. Having some extra money by undertaking a fun job while in school is a win-win. If you don’t see anything of interest, you can look elsewhere to find something you enjoy that will work with your class schedule.

Understand Needs vs Wants

Having the above elements sorted will help you create a realistic budget. Groceries, dining, clothing, toiletries, supplies, etc. all add up very quickly. Creating categories of items which you know that you will be spending money on will give you insight about what you need versus what you want. Before school begins, scouting clearance and sales for some of these items and building a stock of necessities can help make this process easier. This will at least offset these costs for the first few months as you get settled in with your exciting new path as a college student.

Education is an Investment

Higher education can come with a daunting price tag. Don’t let the cost of tuition scare you! We have met college hopefuls who have decided not to attend their school of choice based on tuition alone, or even some who were so terrified by the tuition that they put off going to school altogether. There are numerous options that students can look into to help alleviate these costs. Think of your tuition like the sticker price on a car. What you see does not have to be what you pay! You will have to put in the time and the research to get what you want. As with all things in life, if you are dedicated to making it work, you just might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome! One thing that may alleviate any concerns you may have, is to do some research and find out how much you expect to earn once you have your dream job. Compare that to the cost of tuition. A college education is the key to earning that amount of money, so think of it like an investment!

Knowing Your End Goal Could Save You Money!

The end goal looks different for every student. The main question to consider: what do you want to accomplish with your education? Is it important for your resume to list a particular school? Is there an organization you can join which can help you with your career goals? These questions warrant close examination. For example, undecided or budget conscious students may opt to spend the first two years at a community college to satisfy the prerequisite courseworks and transfer into a full time university or college. Community colleges are cheaper compared to a private or state university.

The option is available to transfer credits from an associate degree to a college or university where students begin taking core courses. This is not the ideal option for everyone, as some professional degrees may require prerequisite associate level courses before moving on to the Bachelor level. If this is a viable option that suits your end goals, however, it could be a significant financial relief for you (and your wallet). The bottom line is, if you know where you would like to be, academically and in your career, the path you choose to get there could save you money in the long run. There usually IS more than one way to get there!

Today’s guest article comes from Desiree Van Campen, Dr. Kacey Shap, Dr. Jazmin Letamendi and Dr. Carl Letamendi from Ology Research Group. They provide support with research & evaluation support, survey instrument design, survey implementation, analytics for reports, assessment and grant writing. They may be reached at

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