How to Save Money in College

College is a new and exciting adventure. You’ll meet new friends, explore your career options, study topics you are passionate about, and engage in experiences that you can’t even yet fathom. College is a wonderful, but expensive adventure. This is why it is essential to learn the best ways to save money in college.

First and foremost, no matter which college you decide to attend, whether it’s one of the best private colleges or a nearby community college, fill out your FAFSA  form. Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA, is one of the best ways to acquire funds for college.

FAFSA provides over $150 billion to students each year and if you want a piece of the pie, apply early and ensure your information is correct and current.

How to Save Money in CollegeThrough FAFSA, you will learn if you’re eligible for government-distributed scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans. Scholarships are the best options as they don’t need to be paid back, often followed by work-study depending on your schedule. However, federal student loans are also a great option.

It is not ideal to leave school with loans, but it is the reality for most graduates. So, if this is your route to attend college, always go with federal over private loans as they almost always offer the lowest interest rates and best pay-back plans. This will save you money up front and over the course of the loan.

Next, carefully look over your acceptance and offer letters from each college you were accepted to. Where you decide to attend may be a clear-cut decision for you, but sometimes it is a challenge to choose between two schools. When thinking about finances, do not just think about the listed sticker price. It might be a reflex to throw out one of the best private colleges because you think it is expensive. But, what if they offer you a fabulous scholarship or free room and board. Then, all of a sudden your financial reach school is within your grasp.

It is also important to look beyond black and white. Look at what your potential transportation, entertainment, food, and general living expenses might add up to. The in-state college might look good, but if it’s on the other side of the state in an urban metropolis, your expected transportation and entertainment costs might double your anticipated monthly expenses.

Choosing which school you will attend is just one piece of the puzzle. Do not forget to budget once you are there. It is easy to think, “I have scholarships and loan money to spend. I’ve got this cover,” and then overspend in the first few semesters. Instead, allocate your funds properly to ensure it lasts all year, with some to spare just in case.

Here a few excellent ways you can save money and stretch your budget even further.

Take full advantage of student discounts. Once you have your official student ID, ask if a student discount is offered everywhere you go. If you don’t, the sales associate will likely not tell you so be proactive. Some of the best discounts around include:
• Huge discounts on Apple computers
15% off at J. Crew to fund your professional wardrobe
• Unlimited access to The Wall Street Journal online to keep you informed
10% discount at Under Armour so you can get the latest workout gear
• 10% off at Rosetta Stone so you can learn a new language
• Up to 90% off used textbooks at Barnes & Noble so you can cut down your book costs
Free 6-month trial for Amazon Prime
• And many, many more!

You can also eat for extra cheap when you frequent the following locations with your student ID on hand: 10% off at Buffalo Wild Wings, free drink at Chick-fil-A, 10% off your McFlurry at McDonalds, and more.

Are you looking to furnish your dorm or new apartment? If you wait until the last minute you will spend more money on bedding and needed accessories, but if you are patient and shop online and at thrift stores, you will find everything you need at discounted rates.

You can pick up a set of metal silverware, a pot, pan, spatula, cups, and plates for just a few bucks at Goodwill. You can also find excellent deals on Amazon on everything from pillows to towels, and with your free Amazon Prime membership (as seen above), get it shipped to your desired location for free in just two days.

Your school, whether you attend one of the best private colleges or an in-state school, will offer various free events throughout the year. Some schools put on free concerts, while almost all will have free speaking engagements. Sometimes there is so much going on that you might not even hear about all the amazing free events happening on campus. Make sure to check your local school paper, events website, flyers hanging around, as well as with your local student government. Chatting with upperclassmen is also a great way to find the most underrated, discounted entertainment options around campus.

Similarly, and especially at the start of the semester, many campus clubs will provide free food at their introductory meetings. This is the perfect way to get involved in campus, learn more about the various organizations you might want to be a part of, and nosh on some free snacks.

Also, think about your transportation options. You might currently have a car, but do you need it at school? Many campuses have excellent bus systems and schools regularly provide free or discounted mass transportation options if you are in an urban area. Instead of paying for gas, oil changes, and insurance, trade in your car for a bike and the bus.

College is a unique experience where you have the opportunity to learn and interact with amazingly smart and talented classmates and professors to prepare you for future success. It’s also a time when you are suddenly thrust into more adult situations. College may be the first time you are (for the most part) financially dependent on yourself. Set yourself up for not just a successful career, but also a successful financial future by following some of the savings tips listed above.

Are Small Colleges Still Affordable?

Are Small Colleges Still Affordable?

Though many schools of higher education are firmly rooted in tradition—through campus life, sports, and legacy families—what higher education looks like today is quite different than it did for previous generations. With over 2,700 schools to choose from, online classes are becoming the norm and more schools are offering completely online degrees. Flexible schedules are allowing more people to earn degrees than ever before, but it comes at a cost (literally).

Tuition prices have skyrocketed in the past 20 years. Between 1995 and 2015, the average tuition at private U.S. universities rose by 179%, surpassed by out-of-state tuition for public schools’ increase of 226%, and in-state public university tuition alarming jump of 296% (note that inflation between the same years grew by just 55.1%). Collectively, the 44 million Americans saddled with student loans are $1.3 trillion in student debt. The average higher education graduate in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, 6% more than students who graduated just one year before. So in short, all universities, big and small, are increasingly expensive.

Cost aside, earning your college degree is more important today than it ever has been—with one in every three people holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. With so many factors determining which career path is right for you, affordable small colleges make it easier to find your perfect fit without drowning in debt.

Why Choose a Small College?

Small colleges can be among the most affordable options for higher education and are scaled to create a strong sense of community among students and staff. Starting college can be overwhelming, but a smaller campus with fewer students can reduce reasons for anxiety.

Academically, affordable small colleges are more likely to employ instructors and professors who are there because they love to teach. Large universities often pull big-name professors who teach in order to have an institution to conduct their research. Small class sizes at small colleges facilitate one-on-one interactions and a tight-knit learning environment. With a shorter list of majors, small colleges often offer customizable degrees that cater to the career goals of each individual student.

How to Keep Small Colleges Affordable

Whether you go big or small, starting with a low base tuition is the best way to keep college affordable. Grants, loans, scholarships, and part-time jobs all make getting your degree more affordable, but first you need to determine which combination of these subsidies and payment methods is right for you:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

During your college years, you’ll likely become quite acquainted with the acronym FAFSA—a huge factor in determining the amount and the kind of financial help you’ll receive each year. Your year in school, enrollment status, cost of attendance, and the income of your parents or guardians (unless you are an independent student, then your personal income will be a factor instead) all determine your eligibility for financial help. The tricky thing is, even if your parents or guardians do not plan to help pay for your tuition, FAFSA will take their income into account as if they are the ones picking up the check.

Government financial aid is divided among two categories. Need-based aid is financial aid that you can receive if you have financial need and meet other eligibility criteria. It includes grants, subsidized loans, and work-study opportunities. Non-need-based aid does not take Expected Family Contribution (based on household assets and income) into account, but rather is based on the other assistance a student has or will be receiving. Unsubsidized loans and minimal grants are included in non-need-based aid.


To qualify for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, a student must be enrolled at least half-time (taking 6 credit hours of classes, for example). Subsidized loans give students a six-month post-graduation grace period until your payment obligation kicks in. Interest accumulated while the student is enrolled at least half-time is paid by the U.S. Department of Education. Interest payments for unsubsidized loans accrue throughout a student’s enrollment time and are tacked-on to the loan amount once the student graduates.  


Unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back. Grants can be privately or governmentally funded. The Federal Pell Grant is part of FAFSA’s need-based aid and is usually awarded only to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a degree. Every student who is deemed eligible on a need-based evaluation can receive the Pell Grant. The amount allotted per student each year fluctuates and will change each academic year. Even if you do not qualify for grants through the government, there’s a good chance you can apply to some through your affordable small college’s website.


Scholarships are awarded for just about anything you could think of and though they usually require a lengthy application process, scholarships can help save thousands of dollars on college tuition. High schools, extracurriculars, and sports teams, as well as private foundations and companies, are all great resources for potential scholarship money. College websites list scholarships awarded through the school. Like grants, you don’t have to pay back scholarships.


Nearly every school offers a work-study program that provides part-time work for enrolled students with financial need as determined by FAFSA. Work-study programs are often available to both half-time and full-time students and include both on-campus jobs and jobs through select nonprofit organizations or public agencies. Work-study jobs are typically very flexible and work around class schedules. Students are paid hourly and placement is determined by a student’s skill-set and financial need, though the early worm does usually get the employment worm! Be proactive. If your FAFSA determined you eligible, apply before the semester starts to increase your chances of being placed.