A college education is one of the biggest investments a person will make in his lifetime...or a parent's lifetime! My two oldest sons are headed out to college this week and both my heart and wallet are feeling it. I absolutely loved college. In fact, I'm getting ready to start a doctoral program myself! My kids think I'm nuts because I actually like school. A college education costs time and money...You've got to put in your own time to earn a degree, but I CAN help you with the money part!
Saving money on college is as easy as ABC. Let's get started:
A - Apply for scholarships! There are a ton of them out there, just waiting to be given away. There are a number of paid and free web sites where you can find scholarship information, but my favorite is www.fastweb.com After answering a few demographic and talent questions, they'll tell you which scholarships you qualify for, submission requirements, and deadlines. I hunted for scholarships for my two oldest sons, they wrote the essays and filled out the applications, and together we saved a bundle on tuition and extras. Talk to your high school counselors because they usually have drawers and files full of local organizations who offer money as well. Going back to school at an older age? Not to worry....you can qualify for many scholarships too!
B - Buy books at a discount by shopping at www.half.com , www.amazon.com , www.textbooks.com , and www.valorebooks.com
C - Consider your career path. If you're interested in military service, the US Army and Air Force offer a free college education with some after-graduation service required. Talk to your parents to see if their companies offer grants, loans or scholarships to employees. Find out if your parents receive a special alumni discount from their alma maters. Your state may even offer scholarships for attending a college within its borders, rather than going to an outside university. Some professions grant special funding and provisions, such as teachers who are willing to work in inner cities upon graduation. Make some phone calls and find out!
D - Dorm living is great freshman year as you try to get adjusted to college life, but after that, living off campus is usually less expensive. Offer to do yard or home maintenance to receive a discount in rent. Many duplexes and small homes in college towns are owned by "absentee" owners living out of state, so they'd be happy to have a hard-working student keep an eye on their property. Check out www.campusrent.com or www.collegerentals.com or apartmentfinder.com to start your apartment search online. Invite your friends to join you and you could get a free month's rent or referral fee!
E - Eat and drink responsibly. Brown bagging it is usually less expensive than any other way of dining, but students often get discount cards to eat on campus. Some food plans are pricey and restrictive, so be sure to check the fine print. Students can save money if they buy in bulk and split up the fixins.
F - FAFSA applications are long and obnoxious, but submitting a FAFSA is one of the best ways to save money on tuition, resulting in possible grants, lower student loans, or priority for the college student. Counselors in your high school and college can help you work through the paperwork maze.
G - Get the best learning experience you can by signing up for the best rated professors on campus. Check out www.ratemyprofessors.com One of my sons flunked out of a class because he couldn't stand the teacher. What a waste of time. Go online and see what kind of teacher is being offered before you sign up for his class!
H - Have fun, but be smart. College can be a blast, but make sure you're going to graduate with a degree that will actually get you a job in the end. While a degree in underwater basket weaving would be fascinating, think about the end goal. Unfortunately, the world will only pay you what it thinks you're worth, how good you are at performing a service, and how difficult it will be to replace you. Find your passion and specialty and then make yourself marketable!
I - I could go through the whole alphabet, but this was just a little taste of college to get you started! Spending time on www.fastweb.com alone will keep you plenty busy for now!
Sister Thrifty a/k/a Trina Boice