8 Ways to Save Money on and in College

Let’s face it. College is expensive, and not all of us will get full ride scholarships based on stellar grades or athletic ability.

Since we’re here to help you save in many ways, not just with coupons, here are some ways to save on college, and while you’re in school, as well:

1. Chase Down those Private & External Scholarships

While the world “scholarship” often brings to mind the thought of elite athletes or students who have taken a slew of AP classes in high school, the reality is that there are a lot of scholarships offered for a variety of different types of students. Perhaps you didn’t have the best grades, but did a lot of community service? There are scholarships out there that don’t request grades or standardized test scores. Maybe you’re a first generation student? Or a single mom? A lot of different companies (including us!) offer scholarships that are looking for students that fit a variety of criteria, so do yourself a favor and spend some time looking around for some of them. Private scholarships come in amounts starting as little as $500 but can add up if you pound the digital pavement and apply to lot of them.

You can find private scholarships in a few places:

    • Your school’s financial aid page. Many schools have a list of private scholarships available on their sites, or connect to a database. Some schools refer to them as external scholarships, but it’s essentially the same thing – scholarships that are not funded directly by the school. Here’s an example of a financial aid page that links off to some external scholarships: SDSU External Scholarships


    • Scholarship search engines. There are some large scholarship search engines that help match students up with scholarships that they are likely to have a chance of winning. Two of the largest ones are Fastweb and Cappex, but there are also a lot of others like Since not every scholarship shows up on every site, it’s best to sign up for several of them.


    • Specialty sites. Websites like often list scholarships that are relevant for the students their site targets, but you can also find out about scholarships on websites built by college counselors and consultants who have a resource section.


  • Google. Another quick and easy way to find scholarships is by simply doing a search on Google or your favorite regular search engine. Consider searching for things like “single parent scholarship 2016.” Adding the year or year you’re going to be attending (ie 2016-2017) can help ensure that you’re finding current scholarships, versus ones that may have already closed to new applications.

2. Apply for Need-Based Aid

If you’ve ever been near a financial aid office, you’ve likely heard of the FAFSA. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be completed online at and is due on different dates based on the state you’re attending school in. If you are looking for aid based on financial need, you’ll want to make sure that you complete this form on time. You’ll be able to use this form to help qualify for grants, loans and work study jobs, and it’s worth filling out even if you don’t think you’ll qualify.

3. Take on a Work Study Job

Work study jobs can help you save some money, but can also help you gain experience before you enter the workforce. While some may include working in the cafeteria, you can also find jobs that can help bolster your resume and help you gain incredible experience. I had two work study jobs in college – one of our department of Instructional Technology (building websites) and another as a teaching assistant for an Ethics class… which were much better part time job options than what I could have found externally. You can usually find out about work study jobs online, but make sure you get in touch with your school’s financial aid or counseling office early to have the best selection. Here’s an example of a work-study job listing page from Berkeley.

4. Consider Community College

Another option for saving money on college is to attend a community college for your general education courses. This is generally a much cheaper alternative to 4 year colleges and university, and you can consider talking with a counselor at your target university to ensure that you’re taking classes that will transfer over. This can save you thousands of dollars in tuition, and you can find some cost comparisons online like this one from Texas.




5. Rent or Buy Used Textbooks

Textbooks can be incredibly expensive, and you can consider buying your books used or even renting books. While you used to have to go to the campus bookstore and fight over the last used copies, you can now get textbooks online. A few of the top places are, Barnes & Noble, Alibris and Amazon Textbooks.

6. Take advantage of Student Discounts

Being a student has some other perks – student discounts! Check your local restaurants for discounts, and make sure to take a look at your school’s newspaper. Many companies offer discounts for students including Apple, Best Buy, Urban Outfitters, and some others. Take a look at to find even more deals.

Amazon even has a version of Amazon Prime for Students, which comes with a 6-month trial and a refer a friend program that gets you $5 for each friend who signs up.

7. Check for Discount Clubs for Students

In addition to things like Amazon Prime for Students, other companies such as Overstock offer specific discount clubs for students (and teachers sometimes get the benefits, too!). They have a program called Club O for Classroom, and with a bit of research you can likely find some additional companies that offer similar deals.

8. Watch for Tax Free Weekends

Several states offer the opportunity to shop tax-free one weekend a year. Check our guide to see if your state offers this.

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