Affording School as a Broke College Student6 min read

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Affording School as a Broke College Student

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a new guest author. He writes for a website that he’s started called Andrew has graduated with  a degree in mechanical engineering and has felt a passion to talk about how students preparing to enter college should really look into scholarships. He is looking to be a helpful resource. I think you will find what he has to offer here fantastic! Take it away Andrew…

College is a time and place where young adults are finally able to escape their parents grasp and try new things. When most people think about their college days, they remember meeting new people, learning new lessons, and trying things that they never have before and may never again. If you happen to be an adventurous young high school student, then hearing that probably gets you super excited, and rightfully so.

Unfortunately, not everything is one-dimensional.  College is no exception to this rule.

There are less fun aspects of college that are just as memorable as the exciting parts.  What memories exactly?  Being broke is one, for starters, but watching student loan debt pile on for four years is a close second.

Many college students are going to have their first experiences with empty wallets and no help from parents.  This scenario introduces one of the most important life lessons, and often in a hard way: personal finance.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.  These students are also getting their first taste of managing debt through the grace of student loans.

See where are we going here?  College kids are terrible at personal finance, and they have to deal with student loans, the second leading form of debt in the nation.

Luckily, all is not lost because you still have time to do something about this, even while you are still in college.  Here are several tips about affording your education as a young student with little money.

Take Advantage of Free Financial Aid

Scholarships and grants are sometimes dubbed “free money”, and for a good reason.  While student loans require you to pay back everything plus interest, scholarships and grants require no repayment.  A scholarship is free, and you can win more than one, too.  Some people have been able to cover the full cost of tuition with only scholarship money.  By winning scholarships, you can worry a little less about that mounting student loan debt.

While grants are awarded sparingly through the university, a horde of scholarships can be found online.  By horde, we mean there are literally thousands of scholarship opportunities, and they are offered for countless reasons. For example, you can be eligible for a scholarship for simply being left-handed or for wearing glasses. You’ll increase your chances if you apply to as many scholarships as possible, so apply for any and all opportunities!

Pick up a Side-Job Around Campus

Working throughout college can be stressful, but the benefits are extremely rewarding.  The cost of attending college includes plenty of hefty expenses.  Rent, food, and textbooks are three big examples.  Working part-time during each semester is the perfect way to cover these additional costs.

How do you get a job?  There are plenty of places to look!  For starters, you can look for opportunities with the university.  Many colleges offer part-time work to students just so they can cover living costs.  Alternatively, you can find work with a business in the area. Many stores need additional help during the semester due to the influx of students. Online search engines are a great place to start when looking for a job.  When all else fails, you can apply to the Federal Work-Study Program which supplies part-time opportunities to students with financial need.

Learn How to Budget

One of the most important and, unfortunately, underutilized personal finance tools is the budget.  It is simple, yet powerful, and admittedly, it is a glorified addition/subtraction problem.  Blindly spending money can be disastrous.  With a personal budget, you can track your spending easily and ensure that you always have your finances under control.

Budgeting resources are easily accessible and simple to use.  There are tons of guides and checklists found online.  On top of that, you can download smart phone apps that track spending in real time.  It is easier now than ever to budget and monitor your income and expenses.

Look for Off-Campus Rentals

Living in the dorms can be a ton of fun, but they come at a cost. This cost happens to be a big contributor to the overall price of college. In other words, on-campus housing is extremely expensive and typically a rip-off.  Living off-campus in an apartment or house is the perfect alternative to on-campus housing.

Luckily, there are plenty of off-campus housing opportunities in college towns.  With so many students around, property owners compete with each other by offering as many rental properties as possible.  This means you can definitely find a cheaper off-campus alternative to the dorms!  Different areas have their own resources for finding off-campus space; all it takes is a simple online search.

Avoid Paying Full Price on Any Textbook

Let’s cut to the chase here.  Textbooks are expensive.  There is no debate on that one.  Every year, a new textbook edition gets released for almost every subject.  Many course descriptions “require” you to purchase these new editions.  This means textbook companies make a lot of money.  Don’t worry.  You can typically get around without these new, full-priced versions.

Finding a cheap textbook is fairly simple.  For starters, ask the professor if you’ll actually need the textbook and if an older edition is acceptable, if so.  If an older edition will do, then it’s time to start your search.  Amazon is a solid place to check for cheaper textbooks.  Asking friends or upperclassmen for old textbooks is also a great way to save money.  A simple Facebook post can get the job done in many cases.

Capitalize on Student Discounts

When you are in college, it can be a lot of fun to splurge occasionally.  The only issue is that you have a budget to stick to.  Sometimes a well-placed discount can help you fit that burrito into your weekly budget.  On that note, there are tons of student discounts that you  can take advantage of.  Companies offer various discounts to students who flash their student ID when making a purchase.  This is a great way to help you stick to your budget.

Final Thoughts

College is expensive.  College kids are broke.  It is an unfortunate situation that many college students find themselves in.  Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reverse the stereotype that plagues college-aged individuals.  Every year, there are opportunities to save or make money; they just need to be taken advantage of.  Some are obvious while others take due diligence.  At any rate, eliminating financial stress is the first step towards focusing on the fun aspects of college.

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Andrew is a recent University of Delaware graduate who found himself with a job and a bit of student loan debt. After getting into the freelance writing and content management business, he developed a specific interest in the personal finance and student loan industry. Now some of his preferred topics revolve around saving money, financial literacy, student loan advice, financial aid solutions, and anything personal finance.

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