I’m not sure if anyone that this would be applicable to reads this blog, but I do have a younger sister so I thought maybe I’d start here. She has a while to go, so maybe this way I can just add to the list as I get older/wiser instead of forgetting everything.
I “put myself” through college so to speak, but I did in the pretty traditional sense – worked part time, school full time, 4.5 years. I have some student loan debt I’m definitely paying back, but there are something I did and something I wish I would have done that make the process a little easier.
- ·Community College, if you can – spending your first year at a community is way less exciting than going off to college, but can save you a big amount of money. But, if that isn’t floating your boat or if you don’t have option (I didn’t*) you can always take parts of your other classes at a community college. Taking summer, mini-mester, or even part of your regular semester classes at community college is a good way to subsidize tuition. My other advice with this is that if you are really bad a certain subject (like me. With math.) to take that class at your local CC, if you can.
- Live on campus (if you aren’t living at home) – ultimately it’s cheaper than an apartment, you save on food, you save on gas, you save on bills. I was a Resident Assistant, so my housing and meal plan were paid for. If you can handle something like that, I’d highly recommend it. Plus, on campus housing is more fun.
- Take only what you need – in loans that is, and this in no way applies to pizza or ice cream in the cafeteria. Seriously, take enough for tuition and a little for books. Any other expenses (supplies, etc) you can manage to buy without loan money.
- Work, even if it’s only a little – Minimum wage was even lower, but the money I earned even just a little helped put gas in the tank and buy some Taco Cabana. Work as much as you can when you have time off from school. Don’t settle for an unpaid internship if you don’t have to. And if you don’t need it for class credit, you probably don’t have to.
- Try to pay for tuition where you can – It will seem daunting, but anything will help. Look at those interest rates! Save yourself some money down the road, even if it means putting a measly $200 toward your several thousand dollar tuition. Or, even easier, save up to buy your own books** each semester without having to take out extra loan money. They add up.
- Look for scholarships early, and don’t give up – When I was in High School I paid a visit to our College/Scholarship counselor once a week just to ask if they had anything new I could apply for. Look online. Look at your school. Apply for everything you think you’re even a little eligible for –some awards (especially smaller ones) end up with a really low applicant pool. Keep applying/looking your sophomore and junior year.
- Save some money your last year – you might need it when you get a liberal arts degree and don’t get a job right away. Just sayin.
*Beaumont didn’t have a community college, but even if it did there’s no way I’d recommend anyone stay there just to go to one.
**On Amazon, or used, or on half.com. ANYWHERE but the campus book store. Oh, and you’ll probably only buy every book for every class your first semester.