Going to college is an exciting experience. Dorm life, new friends, more interesting classes and a lot more freedom are at the forefront of every college freshman’s mind, but one thing you need to focus on is how you’re paying for the experience. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to take out many loans, especially for things like books or decorating your dorm room. So if you’re trying to finance as much as possible without owing an arm and a leg after graduation, here are some outside-the-box ways to pay for college that you may not have considered yet.
Prevent student loans before they even start by working for a company that offers tuition reimbursement. This means that the employer pays for all or a portion of your tuition while you’re working for them. Most have stringent requirements, such as maintaining a certain GPA and/or the courses that you’re taking have to apply to the field you’re working in. But if you can land a job that offers this perk, you’re well on your way to getting a degree for free! Keep in mind that most employers require you to work full time for this perk, so holding down a full-time workload in addition to studying will be challenging.
Work Your Way Through College
No, I’m not talking about the work-study program per se (although that money certainly does help a poor college kid). I’m talking about colleges like the College of the Ozarks in Missouri. Also called Hard Work U, the college offers students a tuition-free, debt-free college experience in exchange for working 15 hours per week at one of the assigned campus work areas. Work hours are coordinated around each student’s schedule, so you never have to worry about class/work conflicts. Isn’t that an amazing program?
Test Your Way Out of Courses
Another great way to reduce college expenses is by testing out of courses. If you took advanced classes in school or have equivalent work/life experience, you may be able to test out of at least a semester or two of college, saving you thousands of dollars. Yes, you will have to pay a fee (around $80 at the time of this post), but that’s a fraction of the cost of a single credit hour at many colleges and universities.
Volunteer to Chip Away at Student Loans
Volunteering usually doesn’t come with financial incentives, but SponsorChange.org has changed that. Social impact organizations post skill-based project opportunities for volunteers. Volunteers complete those projects, and sponsors fund the money to for a certain amount of student loan payments. If you have the time available, this is a great way to give back while paying down those loans each semester.
Attend Community College First
For nearly everyone, the first two years of college are pretty much the same. You’ll be getting your general education credits out of the way with very few specialized courses. Save thousands of dollars by taking the general education courses at your local community college. There is one caveat: Make sure the credits from your community college will transfer to the university you plan to attend. Also, you’ll need to make sure the credits and hours are comparable. For example, lab science courses have a lecture component and a lab component — some schools count these as separate courses and some lump them together.
Write in Your Spare Time
If you have a knack for words, writing can bring in a nice income while you’re going through school. And no, I don’t mean writing your fellow students’ boring papers. Lots of websites that pay writers don’t require any prior experience. As long as the work is solid, you should be able to find a market for it. Hit up your favorite bloggers to find out if they need paid contributors! You may not be able to foot your entire tuition bill with writing, but it can definitely help pay for books, food and a night out here and there.
Start a GoFundMe for College
If you have some generous friends, family or followers, a GoFundMe account can be a great way to get some money to help with college expenses. And if you’re not big on charity, offer your donors something in exchange for their contribution. Are you a great artist? Offer a drawing or painting for donations of a certain amount.
Have a creative way to pay for college tuition, books or anything else? Share it with us!
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information please review our disclosure policy.