Paying For College: Hidden Savings

February 6, 2011

Maruchan, the breakfast of champions

The best advice to save money on your campus is to be resourceful (beyond stocking up on Top Ramen).   Each school is different in how it provides perks to its students, so keep an eye out for freebies.  Until then, here are some resources for your resourcefulness:

-Free Amazon Prime: If you’re a student, you can sign up for a free year of Amazon Prime for free shipping on anything- not just textbooks or school supplies.  Sign up with your student email here.

-Cell Phone Discounts: I currently save 17% on my phone bill each month just for having a student email address.  Know that not all schools have deals negotiated with cell phone providers, and rates may vary from school to school.  Call or visit your provider’s website for details by looking up “Employee Discount.”

-Student Rates on Software: Again, different schools offer different discounts, but you can get software cheaper than retail if you’re a student and your school qualifies.  One site that does this is

-Fee Waivers: If you haven’t submitted applications yet, be sure to check if you’re eligible for an application fee waiver.  Visit the university’s website and type “application fee waiver,” in the search bar.  I was able to save several hundred dollars this way when I applied to grad school.

-Online Courses: It is no longer necessary to take all of your classes at the actual university, as there are online course available. In fact, you can take all of your courses online, eliminating the need to relocate to a different city, spend money on parking, or pay for transportation. Online programs have many other advantages as well, such as providing access to coursework around the clock, the chance to interact with the same professors as on-campus students, and the ability to speak with other students in an online environment.

-TRIO/SSS: If you are a first generation and/or low income college student, see if your school has any of these federal programs.  Different states might have local organizations like this- such as one I was in, California State University’s Educational Opportunity Program.  Each semester I received stipends and access to free facilities, mentoring and book and equipment loans.  Call your financial aid office to see what programs are set up at your school if you can’t find information online.  (Also know you will have to fill out a FAFSA to qualify for these programs as they are need based).

-Free Books: I seriously never want to buy a book for school again, so I use Inter-Library Loan at my university.  You can request your syllabus early or look up the booklist at your school’s bookstore or student center.  Get to the library ASAP and request whatever you can.  Also, almost textbooks are available to check out in-house for a few hours, or can be found in academic labs on campus, so get your tuition’s worth and use what’s available!

-Free Food: If you don’t know how great college is for free food, you haven’t been paying attention.  Campuses are notorious for having bulletin boards plastered with campus events and information sessions that feed attendees.

-Work Full Time: For most university students, working full time is impossible because their course loads take up all of their time. As a result, you not only spend much of your money paying for your education, but you also cannot make any money because you are so busy. Online universities currently offer an alternative to a traditional education, as they allow you to finish courses on your own time. This means that you can keep a full time job, enroll in any of the current programs offered online, and do your schoolwork after shifts and on your days off. In doing so, you can avoid going further into debt as you chase your academic dreams.

-Campus Jobs: Simply being around faculty and staff will mean you will have a network in place that will put you ahead of your peers in terms of finding the best scholarships, exclusive campus events and people to write better letters of recommendations for scholarships and graduate programs.  Working on campus builds rapport with staff and helps you connect with hard-to-find perks.


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