The idea of a college student being too poor to afford anything but Ramen noodles may be clichéd, but it exists for a reason—it’s true for many students. Between the cost of tuition, textbooks, a computer, dorm expenses, and every other essential part of the college life, most students find it hard to keep more than a few dollars in their wallets at any given time.
But by thinking smart and planning early, your child can save thousands of dollars on college expenses. Here are just a few ideas to help lighten the burden of all those bills:
- Earn college credits in high school. If your teen still has a couple of years to go before starting college, he could save thousands in future tuition fees by taking advanced placement courses. If he does well enough on the AP exams, or aces his SATS, he’ll be able to bypass the lower-level general education requirements for related subjects. He can also take college-level classes at your local community college while still in high school—talk to your school counselor about your options.
- Instead of buying textbooks, try renting them. While you can save some money by purchasing used copies of your child’s textbooks from your campus bookstore, you can save way more by renting books through websites like Chegg and Bookrenter, where you can borrow a book that retails for $70 or more for less than $20 for a semester. Both sites also offer free return shipping when your child is finished with the semester.
- Download freeware for your student’s computer. Commonly used computer software like MSOffice cost hundreds of dollars to purchase. Instead, download open-source software like OpenOffice, which is completely free to download.
- Start your child out at a community college. Your student can take the first two years of general education requirements at a local community college near her home before transferring to complete her major at her university of choice. She may not be as involved with campus life by taking this path, but the thousands of dollars you’ll both save could make the decision worthwhile.
- Consider summer classes at a community college. If your child doesn’t want to wait to attend a traditional university, you can still save some cash by enrolling him in summer courses at a local community college, which costs less for each credit than a four-year school. He also may be able to graduate early, saving thousands more on campus housing fees.
- Enroll him in an extra class each semester. Yes, he’ll be insanely busy, but it’s doable—and by taking a fast-track path with his education, you’ll spend less on rent, meals, and other living expenses.
- If your child wants to go to medical school, enroll her in a combined degree program. Medical school is even more expensive than college—but you can cut costs on both if your child knows what path she wants to take before starting college. If she enrolls in one of the 36 schools offering a BS/MD program, she’ll be able to complete the entire degree program in seven years, for significantly less than you’d pay going from college to a separate medical school.
- Ask for a triple dorm. In your child’s first year of college, he probably won’t have much choice about where to live. But if he doesn’t mind cramped quarters, some schools will allow him to turn a double room into a triple, saving thousands on your annual bill.
- Try out a student co-op. Later in your child’s college career, she’ll probably look for a house or apartment off-campus to rent. A student co-op is the best bargain you’ll find: in exchange for doing household chores (typically 5 hours a week of cooking and cleaning for your fellow housemates), she’ll pay much less in rent than you would in a typical house.
Want more tips and advice on college admissions and college life? Visit our site, MyCollegeGuide.org!