Getting Cash for College

Cash for College

By Toni Martello
05/06/2015
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As a student who’s on a budget, you’ve probably given some thought to how you’ll acquire extra spending money. Financial aid and scholarships may cover the major expenses like tuition and housing, but in all likelihood you’ll want some extra cash for gas, movie tickets, dinners, clothes, and personal essentials. So where should you look?

Jobs

Work-study jobs are a great option for those who’d rather toil on campus. These gigs typically form the basis of income for the college students who qualify. The amount you’ll earn should cover basic necessities: for example, as a senior, my allotment was $1,275 per semester. Spread over four months, that came to $318.75 per month, or about $79.69 per week. While this was enough to cover necessary personal items, it barely allowed for things like flights home or car maintenance.

If your financial demands exceed that fundamental amount, you can get an additional job on the side. There are other on-campus jobs for non-work-study students, too. Check with your school’s career center to find jobs in the library, student union, campus coffee shops, dining halls, etc. On-campus jobs are perfect for busy students because you can log hours between classes and activities, and campus employers are usually flexible when it comes to scheduling work around other priorities.

If you’re willing to venture off campus, businesses in college towns are usually willing to employ eager students. The pay can be higher than with on-campus positions, and if you choose to work at an establishment with late hours, it’s easy to schedule shifts after your classes are out. The options for off-campus jobs are also more varied than those on campus, so you can pick a business that suits your interests.

Paid internships are a great opportunity if you can snag one. Not only do you get a paycheck, but you also get experience in your field and contacts with whom to network for other jobs and internships. Check with professors to see what opportunities are available, or go straight to the companies you admire and ask about getting your foot in the door.

If you don’t want a regular commitment, odd jobs may be easy to come by. These are usually one-time opportunities that you can choose to take on whenever they work for you. Check your local newspaper or craigslist.org for ways to collect a little extra income.

Balancing schoolwork and employment can be tricky, but it’s a necessity, especially if you’re doing extra work on top of your work-study allotment. Successfully managing jobs on top of your schoolwork takes serious dedication and time management skills, but it’ll pay off in the end.

Loans

If working is not a viable option, or if you cannot work enough to cover your financial demands, many private lenders offer educational loans. While they generally come with higher interest rates than educational loans that go directly through your school, and they are not subsidized, there are no stipulations dictating how the money must be spent, so you can use it to address whatever needs arise. Private educational loans have some advantages over other personal loans, including lower interest rates and fewer restrictions based on your credit history.

Be careful when you’re choosing a loan. Hidden fees, variable interest rates, and loan repayment terms can be money traps. And remember, the better your credit, the better your loan terms will be. One of the most important things you can do to set yourself up financially is to build credit as soon as you can.

Irresponsible spending with credit cards can set you up for financial ruin, so if you’re starting out with no credit, the last thing you want to do is start building a history of missed payments and excessive “bad debt.” Credit doesn’t have to be a scary thing, though. Be responsible and make payments on time and you’ll start building a credit history that will help you get a good loan with a low interest rate. For many, loans are a necessary evil in college, but they do not have to be the enemy. Be a savvy consumer – take borrowing seriously, know what you’re getting into, and be responsible. It’s important to build credit and make credit work for you rather than against you.

Photo courtesy of Sami Keinänen 

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