Managing College Expenses Doesn't Have To Be Hard. Read These 6 Tips.

Everything about college is expensive.  From the tuition to the books to the meal plans and the parking permit fees and the list that seems to grow by the semester; students face a lot of expenses to earn those degrees.  While the task of graduating college without racking up years of debt may seem daunting; managing colleges expenses doesn't have to be hard.  Here are six tips to help you (or help your child) save money on college costs.

Take Advantage of Dual Enrollment.  My middle daughter could potentially graduate high school as a college junior through dual enrollment courses available.  Take advantage of these offers!  It is essential to have a plan mapped out rather than taking these courses willy-nilly--but, most can't go wrong with choosing dual enrollment, general education courses in high school via local colleges free of charge!  If it's too late to enjoy the benefits of college classes in high school--you still have college savings options!

Apply for Scholarships, Contests, and Competitions.  Every. Year.  While your school guidance counselor is a valid starting point for scholarship opportunities--they offer only the tip of the iceberg!  Check out options at your intended college or university, explore online for creative or academic competitions with prizes, and look for scholarship contests everywhere, like the one at Nationwide Debt Direct.  There are tons of scholarship offers available to students--you just need to plan to search for them frequently!  Don't forget to look for new awards, contests, and competitions every year of college--not only during the months before your freshman year!

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Don't Buy New Textbooks or Supplies.  I had a friend who would not buy a used textbook because it "had hi-lighter" or "had been written in."  Buy those used textbooks--save that money--and garner some wisdom from those extra notes.  (Maybe the book's previous owner had a professor with a much better understanding of the subject than your professor cares to share!) In all seriousness, buy used books, science kits, and other supplies.  Same supplies--lower cost.  Another option is to borrow the books from the campus or local libraries and renew them as needed to keep them for the quarter or semester.  Also--buying used books and supplies directly from other students through campus "newspapers" and bulletin boards will save you money over even the used section of the bookstore!

Make Some Sacrifices to Keep College Expenses Down.  Experiencing college life is exciting--and can still be exciting and fun even if you cut some costs.  What are some sacrifices that you can make?

Opt for a houseful of roommates rather than expensive single or double dorm room.  Off-campus housing could save you $100's or even $1000's of dollars each school year if you choose an affordable, shared housing option.

Leave the car at home if you have a walkable campus. No, you won't be able to drive to the mall (to spend money) or head home every weekend--but, you won't be paying for parking permits or spending money on gas or car insurance either.

Keep other debt in check.   If you are a young student, this means skipping those new credit cards and expensive purchases.  If you are a parent or a returning student, this may mean getting current finances in order with help from a company like Nationwide Debt Direct before embarking on this educational journey.

Party Less.  Your grades and your bank account will likely fare much better in college with fewer of those late night outings at the bars and fast food restaurants.

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Reconsider the meal plans.   College meal plans are usually expensive--and the cafeteria meals are not all that great.  Learn to cook your own, low-cost dinners and take only a one meal/day plan or maybe two.   While you are cutting meal costs, skip those nightly pizza orders (unless that shared meal is your dinner budget!) and expensive coffee house outings.  That money adds up over the quarter.

Take Advantage of Free and Thrifty Things.  Attend those free events and activities on campus.  Sign up for the free coupon and promotional offers from the local grocery stores.  Look through the classified ads for free items that you may need (or could resell).   It is okay to shop for used items and visit the thrift shops when in need of something new-to-you. It's also a great idea to take advantage of free prep courses. For example, if you're planning on going to medical school, utilizing an online MCAT prep course would be extremely beneficial. You can also save a lot of money by using coupons These can be found in the newspaper or online. Target coupon codes would be very helpful for school supplies and groceries.

Get a Job.   It's pretty easy to find a part-time job on a college campus as anything from a waiter to a chemistry tutor.  Add online options and work from home tasks--and you could probably find a way to make extra money for a few of your free weekday hours.  Plan to work weekends, breaks and summers if working during the school week doesn't fit your needs. 

These tips should open up some of the many options available to help students manage college expenses!  You may not be able to control the cost of tuition and campus housing--but, you do have some options to help reduce those costs and some of the other "extra" costs of college life!

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