What I Wish I’d Known About My College Budget


Since higher ed often comes with a hefty price tag, a lot of students start wishing-they-woulda once those education loan bills arrive in the mail. Even if you’re covered by scholarships and financial aid, there are some other costs that students say they wish they’d known about before heading off to school. Here, a few undergrads impart wisdom and warnings about all things financial in college.

Get used to the high life: “Most of us spend the rare amounts of free time we have working crappy part-time jobs so that we can afford to buy textbooks next quarter. The most expensive place you’ll ever go to for dinner is Pizza Hut and you’ll wear the same clothes for four years straight.” – Sarah, OSU

You can’t win if you don’t play: “Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! I’m not kidding when I say this. You have got to apply for as many scholarships as humanly possible. Many scholarships that seem like they would be a one-time give often contribute for all four years that you’re in school. You will be so glad later when your interest statements for your student loans start coming in.” – USF, Jen

Act fast for FAFSA: “Do make sure you apply to FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as soon as you possibly can. It usually opens on January 1st for the year. The earlier you apply for aid, the more they will have available.” – FSU, Justyn

Milk alum funds: “University alumni love to give money away—but not to just anybody. So if you’re a minority (either because of your GPA, ethnicity, or hobby), go ahead and take advantage of the overwhelming amount of resources you’ll find available.” – Annie, University of Utah

Watch what you pay to party: “Partying on the weekend is always good to relieve stress from the previous school week, but be sure to budget or limit the places, drinks, and food—it can get very expensive. One club outing could easily be $30-$100 for the night.” – Alysse, Virginia Commonwealth University

Book smarts: “Some books you know you will continue to use throughout college and life; those are the ones that are okay to buy new, but in general, do not waste your money. Also, a lot of used books are already highlighted and marked up, and that can be a good thing. Less reading for you, more skimming to see if you need to highlight more or condense what was highlighted.” –  Christina, Texas Tech
Stress less: “The main point is to not freak out about money. You’re going to college to develop the skills to live out your dreams, and dreams can’t be reached without a little hardship. Besides, isn’t there something romantic about being a poor college student?” – Peter, University of Kansas

Photo courtesy of Sami Keinänen 

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