The idea of a college student being too poor to afford anything but Ramen noodles may be clichéd, but it exists for a reason—it’s true for many students. Between the cost of tuition, textbooks, a computer, dorm expenses, and every other essential part of the college life, most students find it hard to keep more than a few dollars in their wallets at any given time.
But by thinking smart and planning early, you can save thousands of dollars on college expenses. Here are just a few ideas to help lighten the burden of all those bills:
- Earn college credits in high school. If you still have a couple of years to go before starting college, you could save thousands in future tuition fees by taking advanced placement courses. If you do well enough on the AP exams, or if you ace your SATS, you’ll be able to bypass the lower-level general education requirements for related subjects. You can also take college-level classes at your local community college while still in high school—talk to your school counselor about your options.
- Instead of buying your textbooks, try renting them. While you can save some money by purchasing used copies of your textbooks from your campus bookstore, you can save way more by renting books through websites like Chegg and Bookrenter, where you can borrow a book that retails for $70 or more for less than $20 for a semester. Both sites also offer free return shipping when you’re finished with the semester.
- Download freeware for your computer. Commonly used computer software like MSOffice cost hundreds of dollars to purchase. Instead, download open-source software like OpenOffice, which is completely free to download.
- Start out at a community college. You can take the first two years of general education requirements at a local community college near your home before transferring to complete your major at your university of choice. You may not be as involved with campus life by taking this path, but the thousands of dollars you’ll save could make the decision worthwhile.
- Take summer classes at a community college. If you don’t want to wait to attend a traditional university, you can still save some cash by taking summer courses at a local community college, which costs less for each credit than a 4-year school. You also may be able to graduate early, saving thousands more on campus housing fees.
- Take an extra class each semester. Yes, you’ll be insanely busy, but it’s doable—and by taking a fast-track path with your education, you’ll spend less on rent, meals, and other living expenses.
- If you want to go to med school, enroll in a combined degree program. Medical school is even more expensive than college—but you can cut costs on both if you know what path you want to take before starting college. If you enroll in one of the 36 schools offering a BS/MD program, you’ll be able to complete the entire degree program in seven years, for significantly less than you’d pay going from college to a separate medical school.
- Live in a triple dorm. In your first year of college, you probably won’t have much choice about where you live. But if you don’t mind cramped quarters, some schools will allow you to turn a double room into a triple, saving thousands on your annual bill.
- Try out a student co-op. Later in your college career, you’ll probably look for a house or apartment off-campus to rent. A student co-op is the best bargain you’ll find: in exchange for doing household chores (typically 5 hours a week of cooking and cleaning for your fellow housemates), you’ll pay much less in rent than you would in a typical house.
What other tips have you used to help save money on college costs? Share them in the comments!
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