Five Easy Ways to Manage Your College Expenses

For those of you heading off to college this fall, I have a few suggestions for you (and/or your parents) that may save you a little money along the ways.  Remember, you have 4 years ahead of you. Starting off on the right foot could mean saving a big chunk of change in the end.

Here are 5 easy ways to manage college expenses.

1) Leave the car at home. You don’t need it. Suspend the car insurance until the summer when you return.

2) Understand your meal plan options on campus. Sometimes colleges tier the plans. Find one that works for you. I see many families over spend on meal plans that don’t carry over remaining balances to the next semester. Be sure to ask.

3) Always buy your school supplies off campus. Much cheaper.

4) Get a part-time work-study job on campus. It’s convenient and if it’s an office job, they will probably allow you to use their computers, printers, supplies, etc. for your school work.

5) Take babysitting jobs off-campus. These positions are posted on job boards in the campus center or in the student employment office by local families.  They pay well and the work is mainly done at night when the kids are usually sleeping, so you can get your homework done. Ask if you can do your laundry at their house in exchange for 1 free hour of babysitting. Trust me…it’s well worth it! You get paid and have clean clothes.

For more advice or tips, just ask!

Ask an Admissions Expert: Dr. Carol Langlois

My latest interview on college admissions for Varsity Tutors.

VT: How far ahead of time should a student begin working on his or her college application?

Carol: Families are starting the college search process earlier and earlier. I recommend that as a family you “start” the college conversation during the end of the sophomore year to gear up your teen for the junior year search. I use January of the junior year as the starting  point. I find that telling families “slow and steady wins the race” helps them think through this process. We basically have one year to help you and your teen put his or her best foot forward, the finish line being December or January of their senior year.

VT: What are the best ways to go about selecting a terrific essay topic?

Carol: Look at a bunch of college essays from the year before to familiarize yourself with what the schools will be looking for. That way you won’t be surprised when you actually start your applications. As a rule of thumb, I recommend to students that they think about their best English paper. Pull it out, read again and remember why it was your best paper. Then, keep that in mind when writing the essays for the colleges you have selected. A lot of times, I find students becoming very conservative with their essays. Writing about what they “think” colleges want to see. I start with students by having them brainstorm; having them think outside the box when it comes to some of these questions, then create an outline, which will build into an essay. Don’t think a perfect finished product will happen in one session. You need to go back to these essays and reread, and rediscover. I guarantee the way your essay looks at the beginning of this process is not the way it will look in the end.

For more from this interview, go to: 

http://www.varsitytutors.com/blog/ask+an+admissions+expert+dr+carol+langlois?locale=san_francisco&state=ca

Don’t Like Your College? Transfer.

If you find yourself on campus and not connecting with the culture, your classmates, faculty or major, transfer. Don’t wait to see if your disappointment changes, because it probably won’t.

For undergraduates wanting to transfer colleges, spring term freshman year is a great time for this. Most smaller to mid-size colleges accept a certain number of transfers in the spring to compensate for those students who were kicked out or dropped out from the previous term. It’s a gamble, but it may pay off. Right now the acceptance rate for transfers is about 64%.  Many college students don’t consider this option because they’re tired from the application process and most likely don’t like the idea of meeting new people and getting adjusted all over again.  It can be a burden, but well worth the pay off if you are unhappy with your school.  I recommend staying at your initial school for 1 semester (or 1 year), get great grades, look into the transfer process early on and start preparing the transfer materials ASAP.  The longer you wait, the less chance there is for ALL your credits to transfer. Don’t stay at a school you don’t enjoy. It’s not worth the time, money or experience.

Side note: The downside is that many schools do not offer housing to transfer students, just entering freshman. Be sure to look into this as well.