Paying for College on Your Own
posted by Megan Uncapher
Ever since I was young, I knew if I wanted to go to college, I would have to pay for it all on my own. My family’s not poor but we aren’t rich either. Neither of my parents went to college and felt that paying for me to go was not their responsibility. Not to mention, they also got divorced when I was three, which made money a little tight for my mom who paid for the majority of things for both my brother and I. So, even though growing up I had no idea what I wanted to be or where I wanted to go to college, I always worked hard to ensure when I did figure it out I could make it happen for myself. I am going to outline all the steps I have taken to save thousands of dollars and that has made going to school in New York City affordable to me, a young, starry eyed twenty year old girl.
College Classes in High School
In the state of Florida, where I grew up and went to high school, they have an amazing Advanced Program (AP). Student’s in Florida do not have to pay to take AP tests at the end of the year which makes there’s no reason not to try. You don’t lose out on any money, and if you don’t pass, it’s not that big of a deal. So, I made sure to take loads of AP classes in high school even though I might not have been “the smartest”. My high school also offered a dual enrollment program, in which you could be enrolled in the community college nearby and the classes you took there would also count towards credit to graduate high school. I graduated high school with 30 college credits, that’s a whole year of college I accomplished for free. I got very lucky though, not all colleges will accept every credit, but LIM was very accommodating and turned my less relevant credits, like AP Biology, to an elective.
Saving Money in High School
When I turned sixteen, I made sure to get a job and start saving my money. While most of my friends saved their money and then spent it all on a brand new car, I didn’t. I still drive my 1990 Camry Toyota, handed down to me from my dad that all my friends made fun of me for. The truth was, by then I knew I wanted to move to New York and while I didn’t know if I’d be living in the city or not, I saw no point in buying a new car I wouldn’t be using that often. So do I get bullied a little for driving an old car? Yes, but it’s because I have a much bigger plan that people fail to see sometimes. I would say in my two years of working at a grocery store in high school, I was able to save up about $10,000. That includes me paying for gas, school events, and eating and hanging out with my friends all the time.
Apply for Scholarships!
This is really important, you should always apply for as many scholarships as possible. I promise you, you will be surprised with how many you get. There are in-school scholarships and out-of-school scholarships. You should always apply for both. I was extremely appreciative when I received the Academic Excellence Scholarship from LIM. Receiving that scholarship is actually what pushed me to attend the school. Originally, I applied on a whim, and my real plan was to take a gap year and just attend community college during the time. However, LIM offered me $10,000 a year, and that was an offer I could not resist. LIM works hard to offer students an affordable school experience, I encourage all students to look into applying to scholarships they offer on a yearly basis.
RENT Your Textbooks
If you buy your books from the bookstore, I'd recommend looking online first so that the bookstore will price-check you for the cheapest price. Books are sometimes cheaper to rent on Amazon or other second hand websites. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to find them for free in a PDF format that you can just download to your computer. Sometimes textbooks could cost nearly $500 a semester, and then you end up using them only a handful of times. Renting used textbooks can bring the cost drastically down. I would also make sure to ask your professors if the textbooks are absolutely necessary. Sometimes they’re not, so why waste money on them if they are not going to be needed.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
This is my favorite thing about going to school in the city, a lot of museums are free with a student ID. The MET and The MoMA let students in for free and there are plenty of other museums that offer student discounts such as The Guggenheim and The Museum of Natural History. Many restaurants and clothing stores also offer students discounts. It never hurts to ask before paying if they do or don’t, most of the time you just need your student ID to prove it. You can also get discounts on Amazon Prime and Apple Music, which I find very useful. While this doesn’t exactly save me money on school, it does still allow me to enjoy myself and have some fun while in school.
Since starting college, I have pretty much had two jobs at all times. This can be a lot to balance, but the way I do it is by working for the school. Being a student worker has a lot of benefits and is very flexible with the hours you work. While waiting in between classes, I am allowed to go and work, and sometimes when there’s nothing to do, I can also get some of my homework done. LIM offers many student worker jobs. I have worked in both the math center and on the student marketing team. I have many friends that work in the writing center, the library, and student affairs, but there are many positions. Then, on the weekends, I go and work my retail job. It just happened to work out that both jobs pay biweekly but on opposite weeks, which means I have a paycheck deposited in my bank account every week. This makes me feel more secure with spending but also allows me to not feel overworked and still have time to do all my school work.
Save Money Where you Can
Luckily for me, even though I grew up in Florida, I have a lot of family in New York. I had the opportunity to decide whether I wanted to live in the dorms located in the city or live with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey. While I would have loved to live in the city and be on my own for the very first time, I chose to live with my aunt and uncle who are generously letting me live with them for free until I graduate.
Also, in terms of food, never pass up going to a school event serving free food. There are plenty of club and career fairs that give out free food, go to them! LIM always gets the good stuff and makes sure to have vegan options and you end up being more involved in school by going.
I know that not everyone is in the same position that I am, but I promise you if you want something bad enough, there is always a way to make it happen. Of course I am still taking out student loans, but they are a lot less than they could have been. I also have a plan that will hopefully allow me to pay them off within the next 3-5 years. The most important part about college though isn’t about money, it’s about the experience you gain from attending. Do what makes you happy and you will always be successful.