The choice to attend college is an important one. The choice to attend a school outside of your home country is an even bigger deal.
Higher education can get expensive, especially when you’re far from home. Even with all your plans and ambitions, this fact may leave you wondering, is the cost of college actually worth it?
With the right knowledge and resources, it most definitely is. The time and money you invest in your education now will pay you back in dividends when your degree avails you a higher paying job in the future.
That said, there are a handful of mistakes students make throughout the college career that make their experience less affordable. Let’s go over them to ensure you avoid these common pitfalls.
Killer Mistakes that Make College Less Affordable and Make Sure You Avoid Them:
Not applying for financial aid and scholarships
Too many students don’t take enough advantage of this benefit – perhaps because they’re missing important facts about financial aid. Be sure you apply not only for FAFSA (or federal aid), but also for state financial aid and plenty of scholarships.
Scholarships and grants are especially important to include in your portfolio of award applications. Search for opportunities that recognize your academic ability, unique heritage or background, or special talents and skills. You can also find several simple scholarships from Bold and WiseGeek that are a cinch to apply for.
Not appealing your financial aid
There are a lot of myths surrounding financial aid that might cause students to worry they won’t be eligible for support, or it’s not worth it to apply. One of these myths is that once you receive your award package offer, it’s a done deal. But that’s not necessarily true.
You can and should appeal your award package with the financial aid office. Give them updates to understand your current financial situation. And inform them of other schools you’ve been accepted to who gave you a better offer. These details will help your school of choice better support you financially in hopes that you’ll ultimately choose to attend their school.
Underutilizing student resources to save money
In an effort to help modern money-strapped students, many companies and organizations offer plenty of resources that could save you a good chunk of change. For example, several companies offer discounts to students. Instead of making purchases at random places, choose to buy from companies that provide such deals and discounts.
Student discounts aren’t the only ways to save money as a student. Shop for used or rental textbooks instead of full-priced. Use health and financial aid resources available on campus. Go to the library for research or even leisure books or movies. And consider getting a student bus pass to save on car payments and gas.
Not having a source of income
Creating an income source can be instrumental in keeping you afloat while enrolled in college. Working a job while you’re not studying can be one great way to bring in a consistent paycheck. But unfortunately, holding a conventional job while in school isn’t always possible for every student.
Even if you’re not able to work part-time during the school year, there may be other ways to make money. For instance, you could work for a bit before you officially begin your freshman year, or you could work full-time during the summers.
Alternatively, you could start a side hustle from home, such as tutoring, freelance services, selling your old stuff, blogging, or investing in stocks or real estate.
Not knowing how to use credit cards wisely
It may seem contradictory to include a potential source of debt as a tip to save money. But credit cards can actually have some important benefits, if you know how to use them right.
Opening a line of credit can improve your credit score, which will really come in handy for big purchases or loan applications you’ll likely need in the future. In addition, many credit cards offer rewards points or even cashback with every purchase you make on that card.
The key to using credit cards wisely is not to get buried in debt using them. And to do that, you need to stay on top of payments constantly. Any time you make a purchase, pay off that balance as soon as you possibly can – ideally before the end of the month.
Budgeting is such a simple yet valuable tool. It also happens to be too often overlooked. As a busy college student, it might feel like you just don’t have the time to learn to budget effectively. But keep in mind, it doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time, and it can most definitely pay you back by giving you a solid grip on your financial state at all times.
Use a simple tool to get started, like an Excel spreadsheet, an app, or even a notepad and pencil. First, add up all your sources of income, including extra financial aid (that’s left over after covering tuition), support from your family, your regular paycheck, and any side gig money you have coming in. This is your total income.
Next, tally up your expenses. Start with fixed expenses – or payments that must be made every month – such as rent, car, gas, phone bill, utilities, groceries, tuition, school supplies, prescriptions, etc. Then list your variable expenses – like activities, clothing, and eating out. Add all these costs together for your total monthly expenses.
Finally, subtract your total expenses from your total income to find what you’ll have left over each month. If it’s positive, put that money on reserve for emergencies. If it’s negative, you’ll know you need to find a way to increase your income and/or decrease your spending.
It’s not easy to take the leap to attend an international college – but it can be all too easy to make common, costly mistakes in the process. Avoid these 6 prevalent blunders, and you’re on your way to creating an educational experience that’s not only more affordable but more enjoyable, as well.
|About the Author –
Tiffany Park is an education, health, and communications writer for WiseGeek with a passion for improving educational experiences for herself and others. Having studied communications and early childhood education, she loves sharing ideas to help students, parents, and families thrive. She enjoys learning new things, seeing different perspectives, and seeking fun adventures with her husband and toddling daughter.