College is a trying time for many reasons; many students incur debt, and many more struggle to balance their finances and education. While a college education is highly beneficial to students who enter the workforce with a degree-backed skillset, just surviving the college experience, let alone paying those after-college debts, is difficult.
Whether your college problems are as simple as sharing a large file with a classmate or as arduous as making financial ends meet, we’ll give you some essential tips to help you survive college, focus on your education, and save money while you progress toward your degree.
Surviving College: Essential Tips to Keep in Mind
With the right preparation and approach, you will have the best chance to not only survive college, but thrive while acquiring your education.
Find the Right College
Before you set your heart on the most prestigious university in your state, consider your budget, interests, and post-college career goals. Researching the price tag of an out-of-state college or prestigious university may dampen your interest.
While it’s worth seeking higher education at a reputable college or university, your financial and mental well-being are also important. A local university may offer the same high-quality teaching experience in a more personalized setting at a fraction of the cost.(1)
The first and most important tip to start effectively managing your money is to budget. Learn to track your spending habits, your income, and your expenses. When you do, it becomes easier to identify spending habits and determine your financial patterns for the future when you have more expenses to manage.
Many students struggle with overspending; without a budget to keep them in check, it’s hard to quantify healthy and unhealthy spending habits. If you find yourself overspending, it might be worth looking into automatic transfers, which can send a portion of your earnings directly into savings.
Alternatively, seeking out part-time jobs or freelancing gigs is a popular method of income for college students. Through the utilization of freelance gig websites or apps such as Fiverr or Moxie, freelancing is a flexible way to take on some paid tasks alongside your school work.
Budgeting and setting aside a percentage of your income whenever you get paid makes the process of extracting that money a little more complicated, encouraging you to think twice about your spending habits. Live within your means and create actionable steps to adhere to your budget; otherwise, you’re likely to fall back into old habits.
Prioritize Your Health
Healthy living may seem counterintuitive if you’re barely scraping by in college, but your well-being is crucial and sets a precedent for the rest of your life. Making healthy choices isn’t easy, but the positive effects are well worth the effort.
Many college students struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They may engage in risky behaviors, not get enough rest, and choose convenience over nutritional value. For example, choosing a healthy lifestyle teaches you the importance of disciplining your body and mind with the right sustenance.
There are ways to accommodate a healthy lifestyle. Couponing, bargain hunting, and bulk buying are all options to facilitate your dietary needs; indeed, cooking at home is less expensive than eating out, for the most part.
Hunt for Student Discounts
You might feel like the deck is stacked against you as a student, especially when juggling academics and finances. Still, you can benefit from student discounts in many ways.
Don’t hesitate to ask restaurants, stores, and subscription service providers if they offer a student discount. Flash your student ID card, and you can save on essentials you need and a few things you want.
Apply for Scholarships
Scholarship opportunities abound, so you should take some time to check your university or college’s financial aid website to see what’s on offer. Scholarships aren’t available for everyone, but if you believe you may qualify, it’s more than worth signing up. Again, they can only say, “No.” Third-party scholarship providers may also provide you with a partial or free ride to college under certain circumstances.
Consider Living Off-Campus
On-campus living can be a lot of fun; getting to know your roommates and dormmates is a great way to engage with the college environment. At the same time, dorms are expensive—usually, the costliest way to go through college. Check apartment complexes and other options near your home. You may even consider renting a space with multiple other students to slash your living costs significantly.
Despite your reservations, you should also consider living with your parents through college if they are willing to host you. At-home living might only be feasible for some, but it can save you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, that would otherwise be fed into your dorm expenses. (2)
Buy Used Books
Purchasing your books from a bookstore or online may seem like a relatively small tip, but you’d be mortified to discover just how expensive college books can be. You may have recourse to shop online or at local bookstores to find what you need for class. Just make sure you’ve got the right edition! You may even be able to find a prior student willing to give you the book you need for a particular class. If you must, rent from the campus bookstore, as it’s much less expensive than buying.
Opt for Community College or Dual Enrollment
Community colleges can help you kickstart your college education, at least when it comes to getting your Associate of Arts degree; these classes are often preliminary, elementary, and aren’t degree-specific, at least to an extent. Furthermore, they are a fraction of the cost of a private college or university, and, if you’re ahead of the game, you can dual-enroll in community college for high-school credit, saving you both time and money.
Take Time for Yourself
Throughout all the stress of college preparation and amid your journey, it’s essential to take time for yourself. Enjoy yourself with friends, develop your skill in a hobby or sport, and prioritize your mental health. College can be an extremely negative experience if you don’t form social connections or, more importantly, validate the emotional turmoil you feel at this time. Consult a professional if your thoughts, impulses, or actions become too much for you to handle.
The Bottom Line
Surviving college is challenging, especially with many competing forces vying for your attention. Balancing your academics, finances, and personal growth is demanding, but hopefully, these 9 tips have given you a good starting point to survive college and save money.
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