How To Go To College On a Budget

By: Mia Myklebust, CollegeMapper.com

It’s no secret that college is expensive. It is one of the largest investments you will make throughout the course of your life. That being said, we have this piece of knowledge to throw down. Everyone can go to college. It’s 100% possible if you have the information to make it happen. Here are 7 things you need to know if you’re going to college on a budget.

Before you go:

1 – Fill out your FAFSA

Come on people fill out the darn FAFSA. I know it’s not fun, but it’s the best thing you can do for yourself if you’re trying to go to college on a budget. After filling out the FAFSA you will be sent an award letter in which you will find out what each college is offering in terms of loans, grants and work-study and how much the remaining Expected Family Contribution is. Only after you receive your reward letter will you be able to determine what the best option is for you and your family.

2 – Don’t rule out private schools

One of the first mistakes students on a budget make when applying to college is ruling out private schools. They can seem like unrealistic options because of the massive sticker prices, but in reality private schools give out generous financial aid packages.

Private schools give grants to about 85% of students and the average tuition discount is 51% (between $15,000 and $30,000). In comparison, public colleges give only 20-50% of students aid and the amount are significantly less (between $2,000-$7,000). So, although public colleges are priced lower to begin with, oftentimes the aid given by private colleges closes that gap.

Another aspect to consider is that you are much more likely to graduate in 4 years if you attend a private school, this translates to savings!

3 – Appeal for more aid

If you’ve received your award offer and are underwhelmed by the amount of aid given, it is perfectly reasonable to reach out to your admissions officer and ask for more. This usually works best if the school is your number 1 choice and you tell them that. Perhaps there is some aspect of your background you feel the college did not take into account when you received your aid package. If so, make sure to let them know in your appeal. After all, asking nicely doesn’t hurt!

4 – Apply for scholarships

Although private scholarships will account for a much smaller percentage of your tuition, it is still worthwhile to apply for them. Millions in private scholarships go unclaimed every year! Get started by applying to the monthly CollegeMapper $1000 College Scholarship and the GoEnnounce Yourself $500 monthly scholarship!

Once you’re in college:

5 – Become an RA

Being a Resident Assistant is a genius way to attend college. Repeat after me, “free room and board.” That’s right, for the mere price of a headache you can get your housing and food paid for. Some colleges also offer free parking, discounts on tuition and, on occasion, a stipend to top it all off. It’s a pretty sweet deal. As I alluded to before, it can be a bit of a pain dealing with rowdy freshmen, but the perks make it well worth it!

6 – Work over summer

The summers before and during college are great times to work to earn some extra cash. Stuck for ideas? Consider: babysitting, working in a grocery store, landscape/lawn care, painting houses, moving services, waiting tables, brewing coffee, tutoring, giving private lessons for a skill you have, pet-sitting, housekeeping, or lifeguarding. If you get along with your boss, he or she might invite you back consecutive years, or possibly even over the month long Christmas break. If possible, try to live at home while you’re working to keep your expenses low 

7 – Spend wisely

This may seem like a no-brainer, but for many of you college is the first time you’re expected to budget and manage your own money. This is task that is more difficult than you might imagine. For some ideas on how to cut costs check out these Money Saving Tips for College Students.

Good luck and happy budgeting!

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