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There are some jobs that you have to have a degree to qualify for. There’s no way around it. But here’s where the catch-22 comes in for people: you go to college to get a job because you need the money, right? If you need the money, how do you pay for college? How are you going to afford college tuition?
If this is where you find yourself, desperately wanting to improve your financial position, but at a loss of how to afford tuition without having to live in a refrigerator box at the same time, read on. Here are some tips that worked for me, and they can work for you as well.
Work a job at the same time.
I really think this is a necessity. Unless you’re running off of daddy’s money, I don’t see how it’s possible to live four years without a job while at college. The good thing here is that college class schedules are pretty flexible. I liked cramming all of my classes into Mondays. This left me free on other days to work.
Work studies, where your paycheck goes to your tuition, are available all over on campuses, but I often question the benefit of them. It depends on the position. Some of these offer free tuition for 3-4 years of work. I think those jobs are great, but they’re highly competitive (I didn’t get one).
If you’re just having your paycheck go to your tuition, you’re likely being ripped off. Somewhere in the ballpark of 100% of the people I’ve ever met who did a work-study this way could have made more money with a “real” job. Like a trade.
Seriously. Consider learning a trade well before you ever go to college.
Apply for scholarships everywhere
While there are certainly search engines devoted to scholarships, I was never successful with any of my applications there, and I put in dozens. Where I found success with scholarships was within my own community. DuckDuckGo “your town + scholarships” and you’ll discover banks, small businesses, and clubs within your area that offer respectable scholarships for college.
These are much less competitive, easier to obtain, and make a drastic difference in the time it will take you to pay off your tuition.
The library will likely have the texts you need.
I, as well as several of my friends, used this method throughout college to save hundreds of dollars. The campus library is virtually guaranteed to have a copy of the textbook you need for a course. The way this worked for us was that you A) checked out the book for 4 weeks, and B) kept renewing the book throughout the year until the class was over.
If the library has a policy that doesn’t permit renewals of textbooks, then you have your study group from that class all place your names on the waiting list. Right after you are done with your four weeks, your study partner Bob is already on the list. He picks up the book, and your group has the text for another four weeks.
The textbook may be available for free online.
Another thing I’ve learned about textbooks is that there are plenty of libraries out there that offer free ebook rentals. The text you need may very well be included as such. If the physical copy has been checked out by another study group, then this is the next best thing.
I’ve also found that archive.org has a host of free ebooks available online, some of which may be your course texts.
Buy all your books used, if possible.
The college textbook business is the most unethical racket you’ve ever seen. Books that would cost $40-60 as a “normal” book at Books-A-Million sell for $400+ consistently in College World. Why? Because you’re trapped and they know it.
This is why I strove to buy all of my books used, when possible. I used Craigslist, eBay, ThriftBooks, Amazon, and Chegg throughout college to save money. I was always on the lookout for former students of the class who may be looking to get rid of their textbooks for really cheap as well.
Just this one tip will literally save you thousands of dollars throughout your college career.
Do not buy any of your books from the campus bookstore, if avoidable
Your campus bookstore is the equivalent of taking your car to the dealership for repairs. Only stupid people do that. If you want to pay a premium, go ahead. If you’re looking to save money, you need to avoid the campus bookstore at all costs.
An intensive is an entire semester of class crammed into 1-4 weeks. They’re absolutely brutal, but they can save you a lot of time and money. I took several throughout college. You’ll literally not be able to do anything other than read and study throughout that time – to the point where you’ll dream you’re in class at night – but if you can get 9 credit hours of coursework done in 3 weeks rather than 8+, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of time that you can spend working to make money instead.
Take the CLEP tests.
College 101 courses are a pain in the butt and waste of money. Scroll through the CLEP course list. It costs around $100/test, but they give you college credit if you pass. I passed two of them (failed one), spent $300, and saved over $6000 as a result. That $100 loss still turned out to be a heck of a savings.
Sell your textbooks at the end of every course.
There are always people who are looking to buy textbooks. Just make sure that you take good care of them throughout your class and you’ll be able to fetch a higher asking price. I’ve also found that I virtually always get more money for textbooks online than I do from another student or from the campus bookstore (they also buy).
You won’t get all your money back, but you can recoup a lot of your college expenses this way.
Will a future employer foot the bill?
Some empl0yers out there are more than happy to foot the bill if you’re willing to sign a contract with them for X number of years. I’ve seen hospitals, engineering firms, the petroleum industry, and teaching jobs all offer to do this.
The key here is to enter college with some sense of direction. If you go in there to “find yourself”, swapping majors every year, you’re only going to find out that you’re seriously broke. Know what you want to do first. Then enter college.
Ask the campus office what grants and discounts may apply to your position
Where I went to college you could receive grant money for being a state resident, grant money for good grades, and so on. Your college is going to have a number of discounts you can get for just about every other thing possible. Grants can really help you to afford college tuition.
If you’re paying the sticker price, you’re being an idiot. Ask.
Take advantage of student discounts around town.
College towns are filled with businesses that thrive due to students. To attract more customers, many of these businesses will offer a 10+% discount on goods and services when one has a valid student ID. Where I live, students get discounts for restaurant meals, mechanics, auto stores, and more.
If you can save a couple of bucks every few days on a purchase, why would you not? This can easily add up to a hefty savings over the course of four years, and it would be wise to take advantage of this.
It is possible to afford college tuition.
You just have to work at it.
College tuition is insanely expensive. College also isn’t for everyone. If you’ve decided that you need to go to college, you should be doing everything in your power to avoid paying sticker price for anything. Save money on your courses. Save money on books. Work out deals. Do what it takes.
You can afford tuition, and the above tips will help you to make it happen.
Have you gotten through college on the cheap?
If you’ve gotten through college without massive student debt, how did you do it? Do you have any tips not mentioned here? Share your ideas in the comments.
Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com, TheFrugalite.com, PewPewTactical.com, SurvivalBlog.com, SHTFBlog.com, ApartmentPrepper.com, HomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.