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The Best Tips to Save Money I Learned in the First Academic Year

15 July 2020
Kenneth Bennett
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We’re honored to present the Winning Essay by Angela Shelton. We selected her as the Yearly 2020 DirectLoansLenders Scholarship Winner after carefully revising all the applicants’ works. Read Angela’s essay to learn new useful tips to save your money throughout the whole college or university period.

The Best Tips to Save Money I Learned in the First Academic Year

The enormous expense of university is the biggest barrier that students must overcome to achieve higher education. Most people feel helpless to reduce the cost of tuition. They feel doomed to a life of ramen noodles to save money. However, throughout my first year in university, I’ve found there are many ways to cut institute expenses. Here are just ten of the tips that I discovered during my first university life.

Plan ahead

It might seem like common sense that you need a roadmap for your university plans. It includes classes you need to take, what degree you’re trying to achieve, and where you plan to transfer. But all too often in my first academic year, I found that a lack of planning was one of the most significant sources of wasted money and effort. I took classes that I didn’t need for my major. There were times when I had to repeat courses or credits I had already earned. I learned that planning and research are crucial in university and will save hundreds or thousands of dollars (besides time, effort, and frustration).

Go to an accredited community college

I learned it’s significant savings in tuition for classes at the local community college instead of the university. I was amazed to learn that community college tuition was approximately one-third of the university tuition. Many times, they utilized the same textbooks or instructors at both schools. However, students should be wary. Sometimes these credits may not be considered as rigorous and could be frowned upon in some academic endeavors.

Be critical when buying the “recommended” textbooks

Sometimes I found that not all of the suggested manuals were used frequently (if at all). I found that I could have easily gotten through a class borrowing or renting some of the superfluous books or using other resources altogether. Find out which resources will actually be strictly required instead of blindly buying all the suggested items.

Try other editions of a textbook

It will not work in every class. Many courses require doing homework problems from a textbook (which might change between editions). If the manual is only for reference, a student will often find that an older or international version contains the same information and is entirely adequate for learning the course material. And at the same time, it might be significantly cheaper.

Sell back old textbooks

If you do choose to purchase a manual, you can usually sell back the textbook at the end of a semester and receive a large portion of the original price. My friends told me their college offered a textbook buyback program, and retailers frequently offered this. It’s helpful when you prefer to have a hardcopy of a textbook. But realize that you will not need it for reference in future classes.

Test out of classes

Some tests and programs such as advanced placement (AP) or the college level examination program (CLEP) are available to earn college credit for some of the more basic classes. I met people who had taken several of the CLEP examinations for some of the core pre-requisites, such as psychology, history, and English. They found that it was much cheaper (and easier) to take a single examination than to make a full semester-long course.

Apply to in-state public colleges

This might be common to most people, but sometimes out-of-state or private tuition can be nearly double that of an in-state public college. Sometimes the prestige can be an essential factor to some students and may matter in some majors. However, for most majors, the name of the college is of little importance after earning the degree.

Apply to scholarships

It might also be common sense for the average student. However, many students who had attempted to apply to scholarships suggested through their colleges found they didn’t meet the specific eligibility requirements for many of them. And soon, they gave up. Searching online, I realized that there are hundreds of scholarships that are open to any student willing to put forth some effort.

Park off-campus and take the shuttle

It may not apply to every student. But at my university, parking passes are hundreds of dollars per semester. However, one remote parking site has free parking and shuttle to the university. It requires you to arrive at the school, especially early to walk to the bus stop, wait for the shuttle, and complete the ride to campus. But those willing to endure this inconvenience save thousands of dollars throughout their college education.

Use your student ID to find discounts

There are several businesses, hotels, and apartment complexes that empathize with poor college students and provide discounts with a student ID. It’s especially true in college towns or areas around a major university.

Every college or university student is painfully aware that college is the most financially challenging time of life. They’re spending thousands of dollars per year on education while being very limited in earning ability and facing the overwhelming burden of student loans. Because of how difficult it is, many students find themselves unable to reach their goal of graduating. By following some of these tips, students can save thousands of dollars throughout their college years to ease their debt burden.

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