Personal finance  |  September 17, 2019  |  Paul Chun

5 useful tips to save money in college

Learn ways to save money while attending college.

What you'll learn
  • Different ways to save money in college
  • What scholarships, grants, and internships are

College is a fantastic opportunity to earn a degree and find a job you enjoy. But let’s be honest—it can be expensive. You’ll need to account for tuition and housing, not to mention textbooks and groceries. Using these tips can help make your college experience more affordable.


1. Apply for Scholarships and Grants 
Applying for scholarships and grants is the best way to cut down your overall costs. Scholarships are free money you can receive based on merit, such as your ability, ethnicity, or religion. You need to write an essay explaining why you are the right candidate for the scholarship. There is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for.

You can receive grants by filling out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a form you complete to receive financial aid packages to help pay for college. Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible for a grant from your school, state, or the government.

Apply for scholarships and the FAFSA annually to receive the best financial aid package you can.

2. Work a part-time job or paid internship
With each semester, there will be new job postings at your school looking for part-time IT, tutoring, and office assistants. Alternatively, there are local coffee shops, clothing stores, or book stores you can work at. You may have been given the opportunity to do a Work Study program, where you can work a job affiliated with your college and receive money to help you pay off any education expenses.

For those looking to get started on their career, paid internships are the right step for you. With internships, you will gain hands-on work experience within your field while making money. There are hundreds of internship programs for undergraduate students. You can set up a meeting with career services where you can get a professional to look over your resume and help you find internships. Also, find out if your college hosts job expos as employers will be looking for potential interns. Dress nicely to these events and have multiple copies of your most up-to-date resume.

3. Borrow, don't buy
For most classes, you will need a physical copy of the course’s textbook. Try to rent used ones from your school bookstore or online. If you bought new books at your school store, you can sell them back. Online textbooks are usually cheaper and eco-friendlier.

4. Use public transportation
Transportation costs can rack up pretty quickly. Avoid driving a car in the city because you are more susceptible to accidents and pricey parking tickets. Services like Uber or Lyft are an option, but public transportation like the subway or bus are much cheaper, especially when you use a transportation card.

5. Take classes during summer break
Instead of going on vacation over the summer, why not earn a few credits? Summer semesters are cheaper and let you graduate earlier – which could save you money in the long run. You can apply for an online summer course in case you can’t access your campus over the summer.

6. EXTRA: Apply for an RA position
Try applying for an RA position. An RA is a Resident Assistant, someone who mediates student activity within an assigned dorm and resolves any issues. Be prepared to be there for students in case of emergencies, conduct meetings, and foster positive relationships with students. This position does require you to balance your courses and clubs as well as be in good academic standing.

The earlier you learn ways to save money, the easier it will be to manage your expenses.


Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Sallie Mae makes no claims about the accuracy or adequacy of this information. These materials may not reflect Sallie Mae’s view or endorsement. Consult your own attorney or tax advisor about your specific circumstances. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.