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6 Ways to Save Money While in College

The average American student owed $31,172 upon graduation in 2019 and will pay back $393 per month. The following tips will keep debt to a minimum if you are responsible for paying your college costs.

1. Become a Resident Assistant (RA)

These positions are competitive. Students must be at least a sophomore and have shown evidence of maturity and good judgment during freshman year. Speak to your RA freshman year for tips on how to be hired and save on your room and board charges. This position assists students in the dorm adjusting to college life.


2. Evaluate Your Meal Plan

Do you grab a breakfast bar rather than eating a full breakfast each morning? If so, save money on your meal plan by only paying for 2 meals per day and purchase a box of bars at the campus store each week.


3. Earn College Credit Before Attending College

  • Attend Community College for 1 or 2 years before transferring to a four-year college where you will graduate. You can earn your "general education" credits at a fraction of the cost.
  • Dual College Credit  classes are taken on your high school campus, taught by high school teachers, but you pay the college to earn college credit.
  • Advanced Credit (AP) - Enroll in an AP course at your high school and sign up to take the AP test to be held in May. Earn a 4 or 5 on the test (high of 5) to earn college credit to transfer to your college.
  • CLEP test - College Board offers you a chance to test out of a class with CLEP exams. The current cost is $87 per test. Search your college website to find out which classes they will accept. Compare the list to your four-year major graduation plan and decide which test to take to save money and time. If your high school is small and does not offer AP or Dual College Credit courses, this is still an option for you to earn early college credit.


4. Rent Your College Course Textbooks

A few colleges offer independent book rental programs. These programs are a steal compared to purchasing all new textbooks. Southeast Missouri State University is one example. They charge students $383 a year to cover two semesters of book rental. The savings can be up to $800, multiplied by 4 years = big savings!

If your college does not offer book rental, consider using Chegg or Addal. Be sure you have the correct ISBN # on the back cover of the textbook to match the correct edition of the textbook. If you do not, homework assignment page numbers will not match up correctly.


5. Explore Opportunities to Work on Campus

Work Colleges Consortium features 8 colleges in the country where a student can save tuition money by working on campus. These are more intense programs compared to the federal work-study program on all college campuses.  


6. Consider Managing an Athletic Team at Your University

Last, but not least, becoming a manager for an NCAA Division I athletic team may be something to aim for if it interests you. I mention this because I had a past student earn a full scholarship as a manager. This will be very time consuming, so it should be something that you're very interested in!


The Most Important Factor: Your Financial Aid

The best way to prepare for college debt is to choose a college financial aid package where you do not have to take out a private loan or a Parent PLUS loan. Attend a college that is in your price range. Use the above tips to keep costs as low as possible.


"Live like a college student while you are in college, so you do not have to as an adult." 

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