College costs are skyrocketing. Americans have amassed roughly A TRILLION DOLLARS in student loan debt. We as consumers need to fight back and make better choices in order to help defray the exorbitant price tag of college. Here are six tips to get your university tab in line.
1. There is no perfect school. Unless you are the valedictorian (or somewhere close) who has their pick of the litter with a plethora of scholarships, heed this advice – there are lots of great schools out there. Weigh your options in a value conscious way. If your education is going to cost you more than you are going to make in your first year on the job it just isn’t worth it, plain and simple. At age 18 it seems like this is a life and death decision, but I promise, it isn’t Being saddled with debt for the next 25 years isn’t worth it to attend your “dream school.” If you HAVE to go there, consider attending a much cheaper community college for your first two years. You’ll get your core classes out of the way for chump change and then you can transfer.
2. Watch your debt carefully. The first tip will help you avoid crashing and burning on this one. I have friends with student loans equivalent to their monthly rent, and trust me, they hate it. It is also easy while in school to start racking up other forms of debt. Put off your first credit card until you get a real job and don’t take out a loan on a car. People expect you to drive a beater while in college anyway.
3. Get a job. You might say “education is the most important thing” or “getting a job will interfere with my studies.” Your parents might even say that getting a job while in school is bad advice. I hate to disagree but trust me, you actually have PLENTY of free time in college. On campus jobs that would only take ten hours a week of your time are perfect. Taking one of those can help you pay down tuition and possibly give you some extra spending money too.
4. Buy used books. I can’t believe I even have to say this. Some folks continue to buy new books when there is a perfectly good used option. If the book is only available new, ask the professor if the last edition would work for the class. Sometimes those edition changes are minuscule and the publisher does it just to make a few more bucks. If so, you could save a bundle by using that year older version. Another option is renting your textbooks. Check out Chegg.com. You could definitely save hundreds by renting instead of buying.
5. Hit up the free campus events. Colleges often throw great free events for their students that often include free food. That includes movie nights, lecture series, concerts, and sporting events. You might get a complimentary meal and you’re sure to meet some new people. And don’t forget to join some campus clubs too – it’ll look good on your resume.
6. Internships pay off – and sometimes even pay! I saved this one for last but it is probably the most important. In your junior and senior year it is often an option for you to participate in an internship program with a company in your field of study. Take full advantage of this. Networking is the number one way people find out about and get connected to jobs. The connections you can make by taking advantage of those internship connections are literally priceless. They can be the difference in having a job or not when you get out of school and can even earn you a little bit of cash at the same time.
I hope these tips help you make smarter choices when it comes to higher education. College is a blast. Just don’t let the costs get in the way of that.
8 Comment responses
Great tips! Definitely buy used text books. New books are just too expensive and sometimes over $300!
Thanks Michelle. That is definitely the easiest one to accomplish. I’m baffled at how much textbooks have gone up in price.
In California I don’t know of too many Community Colleges that students can transfer from in two years. The availability of classes simply isn’t there any more. Although it is less expensive for sure, the time spent there and the time it will take to earn a degree will be longer then attending a four year directly from HS. Great advice!
And I meant great advice with sincerity, not sarcasm…
http://frugaldad.com/cheap-colleges/ and maybe this will help
Thanks for the feedback Michelle. I appreciate it.
Also I did transfer schools It can work, or you’ll waste money on un-needed courses. Take the time before your freshman orientation to figure out the core curriculum at the final school. Your adviser at the first school may not be an expert on transferring, just equipped with a checklist on how to complete their program. If you work with them, show them the final school’s curriculum they may help, but you’ll be your own advocate in the end.
What to be aware of, where to look, and what to ask:
Some schools will not accept certain courses (like an orientation class from another school) or will transfer classes as a “FREE XXXX” course. Prerequisites are not one-for-one the same between two schools. Freshman & Sophomore year tends to include lots of Pre-requisites and intro to x type courses. To find what counts, be very familiar with the class registration webpage to where you want to finish. Be an expert on that curriculum in the handbook available there. You may find you two similarly named courses, ask for copies of syllabuses. Then compare what fits, Ex: Do you need a Science that is Calculus based, Trigonometry based, application of the subject, or the actual theory of that subjec?. Also be aware the main curriculum may change. and so will class names and numbers as schools adhere to new standards that may come up. So it can be different by the time you transfer and you have to adhere to the one from when you began at the final school.
For me, I lost at least 9 credit hours, and ended up taking six years total but it was to finish an Engineering degree. The school I went to was cheaper, and within driving distance to a flexible part time drafting job. I was able to work and used the money I saved (and earned) to pay for a summer semester abroad.
Thanks for the thoughts Sara. Those are definitely important things to think about. When I transferred schools one of my classes almost didn’t transfer. I had to prove to them that it was a similar course. Great thing to think about before you commit to that path. Thanks.