College students all around the country are looking forward to the first date of class – but if your excitement for school is dampened by concerns about how to afford it, you’re certainly not alone! Rising inflation has put significant pressure on many people’s purse strings, and students on a restricted budget are particularly affected. The good news is that it’s never too late to figure out a financial plan! Read on for a few last minute strategies to help you pay for college.
Meet Your Financial Aid Office
Every college has a financial aid office. It’s their job to support students who need help affording school. If you haven’t yet spoken with your financial aid office, now is the time to start! Building a relationship with the financial aid office will get you tons of useful information on scholarships, grants, important forms to fill out and lots more. Share your concerns as honestly as possible and ask for advice: they may be able to develop a last minute installment plan or tuition deferral, even if your school start date is just around the corner.
Apply for Work-Study
Most universities offer a work-study program, which is available for students with a demonstrated financial need. You might receive your salary as a cash payment intended to be used for non-tuition expenses such as room and board, or in the form of a tuition reduction. Many work-study jobs remain unfilled by the first day of class, so it’s definitely not too late to apply! Again, your school’s financial aid office can provide more information; including help completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you haven’t yet done so.
Use Federal Resources
As the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic conditions continue to affect people’s finances, the federal government is offering a number of resources to help. Students on a limited budget are likely to qualify for many of these benefits, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit for reduced-cost internet, emergency food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and tax credits to help pay for the cost of education.
Show Your Student Card
Being a student usually means that you are entitled to a huge range of discounts, freebies and special benefits – so don’t miss out! Check in with your university about what’s on offer. Likely, you’ll be eligible for a free bus pass, food and beverage discounts at local restaurants, and free days at local art museums and galleries. And, don’t forget to take advantage of free software for students through your university, like Adobe Creative Cloud and the Microsoft Suite, rather than paying for these services out-of-pocket! Students also qualify for online discounts, such as free Amazon Prime for six months.
Check Out On-Campus Freebies
Taking full advantage of on-campus freebies could help you reduce your budget by tens or even hundreds of dollars every month. Your first stop is the food pantry, where students can often find free canned, packaged and fresh items available weekly. With the recent rise in grocery prices, this is one student benefit you don’t want to miss out on. In addition, keep your eye out for on-campus events, where you can often pick up free stationery, hats and sunglasses, phone cases, snacks and more.
Find the Right Credit Card
If you need a credit card while in school, choose one that offers competitive interest rates along with perks and rewards. Ideally, you’ll be earning cash back on some or all purchases, to help your college funds go a little further. As much as possible, aim to pay off your entire card balance every month to avoid late fees and high interest payments. Many cards are specifically tailored to students, such as the HUECU Student Credit Card, which helps students earn cash back and build credit history.
Build a Budget
The best time to start budgeting is today! Download a budgeting app, map out your incoming funds and outgoing expenditures, and commit to a few small expense reductions such as brewed coffee at home or secondhand shopping only. With the price of gas continuing to soar, you might also consider how to limit your driving. If you don’t have a bicycle or you’re not familiar with the local transit system, now is a great time to learn!