We won’t sugarcoat it: college can be expensive. But whatever your initial impressions, paying for college isn’t impossible. Financial aid can have a huge impact on college affordability—and if you combine it with a little strategic thinking, some serious work, and a dash of creativity you’ll be well on your way toward reducing the sticker price of tuition even further. We have plenty of ideas about how to start! Check out the following ways you can curb the cost of your college education:
Become a bona fide campus employee.
Is transportation a concern? Consider the convenience of working on campus once you begin your college career. Colleges offer paid student worker roles relating to everything from athletics team management to tutoring to maintenance. Did you enjoy a class so much you wish you could take it again? Apply to be a teaching assistant. Do you possess incredible customer service skills? Perhaps your department is looking for an office receptionist. The possibilities are endless, and as an additional perk, on-campus roles provide further opportunities to connect with classmates, professors, and your college community.
Expand your horizons.
Working off campus can open up an entirely new field of opportunities. However, be realistic about the hours you can commit to work each week (including commute time) and the reliability of your transportation. This could mean arranging your schedule to fit classes into three days a week to leave time for employment or only working weekends. The retail and service industries are popular student work options as weekends and evenings tend to boast the busiest times. If you have the availability, consider applying for an internship. Internships allow you to discover opportunities related to your field of study and gain a head start on your career.
Utilize your connections.
Do you know anyone looking for a nanny? What about a house sitter, dog walker, or someone to shovel the driveway when it snows? Connect with family members, friends, neighbors, church folks, and even classmates. There’s likely someone in your network willing to pay for an occasional helping hand. These types of jobs may not always be consistent, but they often pay well and are a great addition to steadier work. Plus, it’s important to help out when you can!
Use the interests and skills you already have.
Are you an amateur artist, writer, or photographer? Turn your hobby into something more. Are you a skilled web designer or videographer? Set up shop as a freelancer or sell your work. An avid athlete? Consider offering your services as a coach for a community youth team. A social media guru? A calligrapher? A baker? Use whatever it is that you already invest time and energy into to support your education.
Sell your stuff.
Textbooks can be pricey, so take care of them to utilize their full value. Maintain their condition and you can sell your used books at a discounted rate to your school store, fellow students, or one of countless textbook-buyback companies. The same can be said of just about anything. Do you have quality clothes you don’t want anymore? What about video games? If you can find your market, selling used items can be a simple way to gain additional cash from time to time.
Apply for additional scholarships.
The best use of your time may be applying for scholarships rather than working at a traditional job. An hour dedicated to completing an application could net you more than you would otherwise earn in an entire summer. Pay special attention to scholarships offered by organizations in your local community. These might offer smaller incentives than seemingly more attractive national scholarships, but they also significantly narrow the competition. A few hundred dollars can go a long way toward purchasing books for a semester! Plus, local scholarships build connections with impressive businesses and individuals right there in your community.
Finally, create a budget and stick to it. This could mean limiting how often you eat out each month or choosing not to buy that pair of truly amazing new shoes, but it will be more than worth it in the long run. A quick tip: If you actually will die without those shoes, search for deals or download a cashback app to gain rewards on your purchase. Whatever you choose to do, be mindful with your money.
Wondering how financial aid plays a role in reducing tuition costs? Learn more in our Four Types of Financial Aid post.