¢ashing in on ¢ollege

With college costs rising, there’s never been a greater need to find ways to pay for school.


With the end of the school year approaching quickly, seniors are looking into college and further education with a fervor and passion they haven’t used since before senioritis kicked in (for some of them, that’s sophomore year). As the costs of college rise each year, The Purple Quill investigates the cheapest ways to get through college and minimize your student loans so that you can enjoy your time at school and not have to worry so much about affording your next semester.

Some of these tips might seem unconventional, but if you’re serious about getting out of college with as little debt as possible, you’ll want to take a good look at them.

Put money into a college fund

If you’ve got some time before college, use it to your advantage. Start a college fund as soon as possible. In Ohio, CollegeAdvantage is the place to go for a 529 (college fund), with several options from low-risk stocks to bonds to cash only. How much time you have to invest will probably determine what you invest in. If you don’t have much time, stocks might be a good choice, as they have the best chance of earning money quickly. If you are starting years in advance, I would suggest sticking to bonds, as they are very low risk and still offer gains on your investment, even if they are small. However much time you have, invest in a college fund. It’s a low-risk way of paying off tuition with more money than you would have had otherwise.

Work as much as possible in the summers and weekends

Yes, this is your free time, and you should use some of it to relax, but you’re going to need to work a lot of hours of your part time job to pay for college. It would take you 1,954 hours (or 81.3 days) (after tax) to pay for the average cost of tuition in Ohio ($14,804) at a minimum wage job. That’s not including buying food, gas, or anything else. Get to work.

Talk to your counselor and the admissions office

Talking to your counselor and the admissions office at the school of your choice can introduce you to many more opportunities than you may have found on your own. Many scholarships go unclaimed each year, and your counselor or the office can hook you up with the applications for these scholarships. It’s like talking to your agent in major league sports. They’ll find you great deals if you ask them to.

Apply for as many scholarships as possible

This one is all on you. Find and apply for as many scholarships as you possibly can. If you put an hour into a small $500 scholarship, well then (pardon the redundancy) you just got paid $500 for one hour of work. That’s 61 times more than working a minimum wage hour at McDonald’s. Imagine how much you could get if you applied for five scholarships. Or 10. Or 20. The work will pay off if you put it in. Of course, you won’t receive every scholarship or grant you apply for, but they’re basically free money for attending school. Go get your free money.

Keep your grades up

Many schools offer scholarships or grants for students with good grades, so keep them up. Even if you don’t enter college with a merit-based scholarship, many of them will open up to you if you make it to the honor roll or the Dean’s list, which means that you’ll have to spend less time working for your college experience and will have more time to study and hang out, which means higher grades (well, the studying does), and thus you’ve created a positive cycle of grades and money. Getting good grades also lowers stress levels tremendously, which impacts all parts of life. Life becomes easier if you consistently put time in to study and do your homework. Sure, you could slack off and glide through your classes. You don’t even have to go to class. The university doesn’t care. But come finals time, it’s a lot better to have spent a little bit of time studying each day throughout the semester than cramming everything into one sleepless week.

Play a sport

This one seems a bit obvious, but also a bit out of place here. “I can do the rest of these without a huge time commitment, but I would have to be a star athlete for years before college in order to get scholarships for playing sports.” Yeah, that’s true. That’s why it’s number six on the list.

For those of us who aren’t star athletes, this tip still applies. You could try to be a walk-on for one of the teams at your school. While they don’t receive as much as recruited students, walk-ons can get a decent amount of money toward their education. Even if you don’t want to play at the college level, get into an intramural sport. These keep you healthy and also allow you to meet new people. Being healthy means that there’s less chance of having to spend money on medicine if you get sick and meeting new people opens the possibility of gaining a connection for a job or scholarship just by association. Even if you’re not great at sports, there’s a lot to gain from playing in college.

Do your first two years at a community college

This one isn’t for everyone, but for those who want to, spending your first two years at a community college can be a great money saver. Community colleges often cost half as much as other universities and offer most of the same classes. Besides, your first two years will most likely be filled with prerequisite classes that have little to do with your major, so it won’t hurt to spend less money to get the same education. Also, most community colleges make transferring credits to a university easy, so if this seems like a good route for you, take it.

On a different note, some majors only need associates degrees (two year degrees) for consideration in their fields, such as landscapers, chefs, web designers, graphic designers, and many more. If you only need two years of college, just take the classes at your local community college. You’ll spend less time working on prerequisites and more time on what you want to study, which means that you’re two years closer to making money in your field of interest.

Join a fraternity or sorority

This one might seem weird, but hang for a minute. Fraternities and sororities can be a great way to save money through scholarships and dorming. Several fraternities and sororities offer scholarships for students, even if you don’t want to join them. They’re often a few thousand dollars and require you to be a good student who has shown leadership in their life (that’s generally how they go).

Another way to save money with these greek societies is room and board. Although not typically offered to first year students, living in a fraternity or sorority can often cost around $6,000-$7,000, which is around $4,000 cheaper than living on campus (based on averages by collegesimply.com). Most places include two meals a day in this cost, made by a professional chef in several instances.

Living in a fraternity or sorority also gives you easy access to meeting new people through roommates and parties. While this isn’t exactly relevant to making money now, you can make great lifelong friends or relationships through roommates and partying, which could lead to great opportunities during or after college. While you should definitely make sure to study, these houses offer a great way to kick back and meet new people.

Look for on-campus jobs

This one is an extension of number 2 throughout the school year. Working on campus is a great way to pay off tuition due to a number of factors. First, it’s on campus, so there’s no need to pay for gas to get there and you can get to work right after class. Also, while the pay is usually standard minimum wage, most universities also offer tuition stipends on top of salary for workers, meaning that more of your money goes to you, not the college.

Another benefit of on-campus employment is meeting your professors and getting to know them. If you’re on campus 30 hours a week for work, you have a much higher chance of seeing one of your professors than any other student. Getting to know your professors means that you can talk to them more frequently and ask them for help outside of class. I’ve spoken to many professors around Cincinnati and they would all agree that they are much more willing to help a student prepare for their class if they get to know the student and see their work ethic. Work on-campus, get good grades. It’s a win-win.

Join some clubs

For some people, this might seem fruitless. “What, you want me to join the library study club? No thanks. Besides, how am I gonna make money off of that?” All will be answered in due time.

While the study club isn’t for everyone (myself included), there are several clubs that can offer good money for joining. The university chorus, band, theater department, and many other arts programs sometimes offer a small scholarship for representing the school, usually ranging from about $500-$2,000.

Some other clubs offer bigger perks. At most major universities, the film team for each sports team get to travel with the team and can receive major scholarships, even up to 50% off tuition. The dance and cheerleading teams (some schools make these official teams, others count them as clubs) travel all over the country to perform and compete while also getting great scholarships (Bonus of joining these teams: the great workout regiment. Seriously, college dancers are extremely fit).

So there we are. 10 tips to get more money to pay off college tuition easy. To get more information on the topic and to see how well my tips stack up, I talked to Elder college advisor Mrs. Lind.

Mrs. Lind was full of useful advice for making it through college with the least amount of debt possible. When talking about loans, she had this to say. “In order to pay off college faster, you would want to try and avoid taking out large loan amounts to help decrease the amount of money you would be paying off once you are out of college. If and when you have to begin to pay of your loans, be sure to pay the monthly amount on time. If you don’t pay them on time and let them sit interest rates will be really high!”

Mrs. Lind also advised students to keep a budget of expenses in order to stay on top of their finances. “One thing to keep in mind is to make a budget sheet and figure out all your expenses (food, living, insurance(s), phone, gas, etc.). All of these add up really quickly and can limit your funds each month.  One of the most important things would be to try save money and find a job during college to help accumulate money along the way. If you haven’t started to save money, start NOW!”

One of the most important things would be to try save money and find a job during college to help accumulate money along the way. If you haven’t started to save money, start NOW!”

— Mrs. Lind

Mrs. Lind agreed with me on looking for scholarships“Once you arrive on campus be sure to seek out any scholarship opportunities that may be out there.  Most colleges/universities have scholarships for students who are attending the institution. How to seek them out – ask in the financial aid office or reach out to someone who works in the department in which you are majoring in.  Don’t stop looking online for scholarships as well. There are a lot out there that are offered to students who are in college as well.”

With all of this in mind, we here at The Purple Quill wish you the best of luck in college. Take what you want from this story and abandon what you don’t want. It’s all up to you. Whatever you do with this advice, I hope that it takes you far and that you accomplish your life goals. Take full advantage of everything life throws at you.