36 easy life hacks to keep college costs affordable (part 5)

This is the fifth part of our six-part series on saving a buck while attending college. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

23. Consider the cost-saving benefits of the ROTC

If you’re willing to serve your country while pursuing your education, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) could be the right fit. You can earn a degree while receiving financial support from the military. Upon graduation, you’ll be required to serve a stint in the armed services—up to eight years in what can be a combination of reserve and active duty service. ROTC programs cover all branches of the U.S. military. Scholarships are based on academic performance, not financial need, so you’ll have your work cut out for you. But winning one could mean all or a portion of your tuition will be covered. That’s a bonus worth exploring!

24. Take a hard look at your expected earnings from your degree—before you begin school

Our #1 suggestion was to avoid student loans if at all possible. That’s particularly true if your area of study won’t be well compensated. You might be able to afford loan obligations if you’ll be able to command a significant salary right out of school, such as by becoming an engineer, doctor, or pharmacist. Evaluation is a crucial step—don’t discount it! Most schools are not set up to help students weigh the financial pros and cons of a degree and career choice. It’s up to you.

25. Test out of routine courses through CLEP

Be sure to explore whether your college offers the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), a series of tests created by the College Board that assess current levels of knowledge for those who want to test out and earn college credit. CLEP is accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities across the nation. If you have past work or volunteer experience in your area of study, CLEP is an ideal option to explore.

26. Investigate children-of-alumni discounts

Did your parents graduate from the same institution you’ll be attending? A children-of-alumni discount might be available. This could significantly curb your tuition costs and also establish a family tradition!

27. Find a cheaper smart phone plan

We get it—a smart phone is pretty close to an essential in 2016. But it can also take a huge bite out of your budget, particularly for a college student fighting to make it through school. If a student’s cell phone bill tops $100 per month, hunting down a cheaper option is a good idea.

Here are two ideas for keeping cell phone costs in line: First, see about having your student join a family plan while enrolled in school. Second, if you do need an individual plan, seek out services from discount companies such as Republic Wireless or Straight Talk Wireless. Here are a couple more carrier options.

28. Brew your own coffee

This is actually great advice for everyone regardless of life stage. One analysis found the average American worker forks over almost $1,100 per year for coffee. The risk of so many convenient coffee shops and K-cups are partly to blame. One huge cost savings is simple: own a traditional coffee pot and buy reasonably priced coffee at the local grocery store. Save the Starbucks run for a special (rather than daily) occurrence.

The Ultimate Homeschool Guide to Creating a High School Transcript

29. If you don’t go to school in state, at least stay in a nearby state

If you don’t follow our tip #16 (“Attend an in-state university”), then at least consider a school in a nearby state. Staying close to home will save big money on traveling expenses.

Check back soon for the final seven tips!


Content marketer, author, and homeschool graduate. Co-founder of Transcript Maker, the high school transcript app.

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