This is a guest post by Patricia Shuler. In this post she provides money-saving tips for first time college students. Enjoy!

Everyone knows it’s expensive but sending a kid to school doesn’t have to break the bank

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably worried about how you were going to send your children to college since they were born; maybe even before that. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to make it a softer landing for you and your new student. We’re not going to deal with small potatoes—each one of these tips will save you (or your child) at least $1000.

Fill out a FAFSA early

This one might be obvious, but students who fail to fill out their Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) miss up to $5,500 in Pell Grants and more than $10,000 in subsidized student loans every year. Those loans don’t even start accumulating interest until your child graduates, and the interest rate is held at a very reasonable level. With the next few tips, your child may even be able to pay them off before graduating, and never pay a dime of interest. (Savings: $22,000 over four years with full Pell Grant)

Forget textbooks—buy a tablet

thinkpad-tablet-2The average college student pays about $1,200 a year for textbooks—big, clunky, often-unhelpful tomes that are notoriously difficult to resell. E-reader versions of the same textbooks are routinely priced at half, or even a third of the hard-copy price if you go with the “rental” version. Save a lot of money (and your student’s back) with a tablet. Cheap options go for $199, but a nice mid-range option like the ThinkPad tablet runs for $429, and can even replace a laptop for basic notes and entertainment. (Savings: $2,400 over four years)

Talk about a “starter school”

While every parent would be proud to see that Harvard acceptance letter come in the mail, it doesn’t make much financial sense for your child to pay $80,000 for their first two years of tuition, when they can just as easily earn an associate’s degree from a smaller school and then transfer to finish their degree at their dream college. No employer is going to look at your child’s degree and say, “Yes, but were you there all four years?”

Your student should check their dream school’s articulation agreement, and see if the school recognizes credits from smaller colleges (most do). This strategy will also help your student get a clean slate if their grades were less-than-stellar in high school. My 3.97 GPA from a small two-year college qualified me to attend a much more prestigious school than I could have attended straight out of high school—and I had access to much better financial aid opportunities. (Savings: depends on the school—will probably range from $20,000 to $70,000 over two years)

Don’t pay full tuition for a summer internship

For many majors, unpaid internships are the norm; and that means several months of paying tuition for the privilege of working, with no monetary compensation. Most internships do lead to jobs, however, so it’s not a bad idea. Just like a starter school, companies don’t care who’s giving the internship “credit”—they just like the free labor—so instead of paying full tuition, your child can enroll for the summer at a community college, and pay a fraction of the cost for the same experience. (Savings: again, depending on the school—could range from $1,500 to $5,000)

The Big Picture: If your college student is planning to enroll at a major university, using all these tips together will save you and your child around $45,000 over the course of their college career—which is about twice the average student’s debt load at graduation. Not a bad start, huh?

Patricia Shuler is a staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.

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About The Author


Hi there! I'm Jenny, a coffee-addicted, busy-body, work at home mom of two insane boys. I love football, cooking, Deadliest Catch, video games, Wordpress, and CSS (I'm kindof a geek). Feel free to say hi! We can be nerdy together.

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