Think you know how to save for college?
Lily Kane, a senior at Marlboro College in Vermont, has served as an resident assistant for three years.
That, along with several other jobs, helped pay the bills but also allowed her to stuff a little away in a savings account.
"The most expensive part for me is definitely the loans," Kane said. "I think it's also the same for a lot of other college students. That's the one thing that sort of hangs over your head. You get reminders that they're there a lot."
By being an RA, Kane's room fees are covered and she receives a stipend each semester. She also has a work-study position on campus, serves as a dance production assistant and watches faculty member's children in a baby-sitting gig.
Kane suggests students share books or ask professors if they could borrow one to avoid having to purchase it.
"I also think finding things to do on campus is a really good thing for me so I don't have to be spending money," she said.
Although a van offers the opportunity for students to go into Brattleboro for shopping and other activities, Kane usually just hangs around the college.
Start saving sooner
If she had to go back in time, she would start saving more money sooner. But she would also put more time into investigating different grants and scholarships to avoid some of the loans she ended up taking out.
Cathy Fuller, director of financial aid at Marlboro College, suggests students apply for scholarships early in the year and apply for as many as possible.
"A lot are competitive," she said. "Many are from foundations, which work on a first-come, first-serve basis."
Also, students should look for scholarships close to home. Some banks give them out to people even without them being customers.
The amount of scholarships that go unawarded is unbelievable, said Brigid Lawler, dean of admissions at Marlboro College. For example, unique opportunities exist for left-handed people or first females of Polish descent attending college.
"I think students also are getting more creative," said Lawler. "More and more summer programs are offering credit. I think that helps with being able to at least ensure they'll be able to get out in four years without having to do any extra time."
Karrie Trautman, coordinator of financial aid and work study programs at Berkshire Community College in Massachustts, often talks about household expenses during financial workshops on campus. She said splitting utilities and rent between several people cuts down on costs while understanding the difference between credit and debit cards is important. Considering "luxuries" associated with cable television, cell phone data and Internet is also worth investigating.
Packing lunch rather than spending money in cafeterias is another tip from Trautman, who suggests students "really evaluate" what they're spending their money on a daily basis.
"How many students get coffee or energy drinks per week? Then add that up over the year," she said. " I don't think students realize they're spending hundreds of dollars."
Heather Clifford, director of financial aid at Bennington College in Vermont, advises that new students or potential students touring the campus check on their eligibility for financial aid.
"I think that's one of the biggest mistakes," she said. "Students assuming they're not eligible."
Also suggested is looking for outside scholarships.
"Locally there are often places that have money to spend but people don't ask," said Clifford. "I tell students, 'It's a $5,000 scholarship but you have to write an essay. Would you write an essay for $5,000?' It's kind of a no-brainer."
While loan repayment is "a super opportunity" for students to begin building credit in their own name, Clifford said it's important to understand how loans work and know if the obligations around them can be honored. A subsidized loan stays interest-free while students are in school but others start to accrue interest immediately.
Students at Bennington College are encouraged to take advantage of working on campus if their financial aid package allows for it.
"It's resume-building, helping them get set up for the real world," said Clifford.
Berkshire Community College Director of Financial Aid Anne Moore pointed out that printers also are not always a necessary purchase. Students can email papers to themselves then print it at the campus library or computer lab.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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