4 Ways to Cope with the Cost of College

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By Nya Robinson, Howard University Student & KIPP Gaston College Prep Alumna 

During my senior year of high school, my teachers and counselors taught me everything I needed to know to be prepared for college. They told me to apply to a range of colleges- those considered “reach,” “match,” and “safety.” They informed me about the rigor of college classes, how to get extra help from the professor and how to adapt to different teaching styles. I was set and ready to go… academically and socially. What I wasn’t prepared for was the financial responsibility that comes with being a full-time student. Doing things like prioritizing expenses, saving money for next semester’s books, and stocking up on PB&J and Ramen Noodles to save money (what some call the “college student diet”) were brand new for me.

So, while I can’t make that responsibility go away, I can share some tips that I’ve learned along the way to make the financial aspect of college feel less overwhelming.

1) Apply for Scholarships

Applying for scholarships may seem tedious and unnecessary, but they are worth it. Every scholarship counts, whether it’s $500 or $40,000. That is money which you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket that could be saved for leisure. A couple of websites that I use to search for scholarships are: Fast Web, Cappex, Zinch, and College Prowler.  

2) Know Your Stuff

Learn about loans and grants offered through your university or the federal government. Find out the interest rates on each loan you are offered and learn to calculate how long it will take to pay it off. The worst thing you can do is to sign your life away on a loan agreement with pay back terms that you don’t understand.

I visit studentloans.gov whenever I need to do research on loans. The site provides information about the loans awarded through the federal government. If you are thinking about private loans like Sallie Mae, I suggest reading the Terms and Conditions on the website or loan agreement and asking any questions you may have to your college counselor or advisor before signing the dotted line.  

3) Manage Your Money

Figure out or find a system to manage your money. Know when your bills and loan payments are due and set a reminder. Create a monthly budget and stick to it. If you know you want a new laptop, know how much it costs, plan to save a reasonable amount of money, stick to the plan and before you know it, a new laptop is in your hand.

If you have a smart phone, check out the Mint.com app to get you started. It’s safe and secure and allows you to track three accounts for free. Yes, for free. You can see transactions from the different accounts, what’s a debit or credit, tips on how to lower debt and more. It is the perfect app for college students who are entering the adult world.  

4) Keep the End Goal in Mind

Motivation will be your best friend. It’s what is going to keep you on track whether that means passing a class or making the basketball team or finding a part time job. No matter how many no’s you get, you only need one yes to be victorious. Never be discouraged by others or yourself. How do I stay motivated? I think about the day I swagger across the stage to receive my hard-earned degree at my college graduation.

I knew which university I wanted to attend in the fifth grade. My middle school (KIPP Gaston College Prep) took us on a tour and I felt at home. From that moment on, I wanted to do anything to earn my acceptance. Almost ten years later, I am on track to graduate early from my dream school. I still reminisce on the feelings I was engulfed with when I was accepted and I expect an even greater feeling of success when I walk across the stage in the spring – despite all the PB&J and Ramen Noodles I had to endure.

Learn more about how KIPP helps support students on their paths to and through college here >