Looking back on my undergraduate career, I was trying to think of what questions or information really helped me plan my finances better and graduate without debt. After thinking for a few days on the topic I have narrowed my list down to seven questions. Here are the seven questions and their answers that helped me save thousands in college!
1. Have I completed the FAFSA for this school year and the upcoming school year?
Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year is a must if you are serious about maximizing your potential for saving money in college. It is essential to your plan of saving money on college costs and minimizing debt.
Don’t know what the FAFSA is?
Check out the official website here: https://studentaid.gov/h/understand-aid
2. Am I Pell-eligible?
You need to know if you are Pell-Eligible. Not knowing can mean you are leaving financial aid on the table. Note, being Pell-eligible means that you are eligible to receive the Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant is exactly like it sounds – it’s a federal grant to help you pay for school. Since it is a grant, you do not need to pay it back. It is free money! In order to know if you are Pell Grant eligible, you must complete the FAFSA.
So again, check out the official website here: https://studentaid.gov/h/understand-aid. It is extremely important and free for you to complete.
3. Does my university bookstore price match? And with whom?
Textbooks can be expensive, especially at your university bookstore. It is a necessity to know if your bookstore price matches or not and with whom. Why? Well, if your bookstore price matches with Amazon, then you can find the book cheaper on Amazon, take that listing to your bookstore, and then get the book for the cheaper Amazon price.
Doing it this way ensures that you are getting the right book and you don’t have to wait for the book to ship to you. It will also make returns a lot easier at the end of the semester since all you will need to do is return them to your university bookstore.
4. What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?
Knowing what loans are and how they work is integral to building a solid financial understanding of your financial options. Deciding which type of loan to pursue can be the difference between paying your loan off for 5 years versus 30 years.
Federal Direct Subsidized Loans
This is officially called the Federal Direct subsidized Loan and is another aid opportunity you can only receive after completing the FAFSA. They are exactly as titled – a subsidized loan to be used to help you pay for college.
What does subsidized mean?
Subsidized, in this use, essentially means you don’t have to pay interest on the loan while you are enrolled in school. Officially, it’s saying that the U.S. Department of Education is paying the interest on the loan, not you. Now, I am not sure about whether it depends on if you are full or part-time, so speak with your financial aid office about the specific details – I believe you must be at least whatever your school determines as “half-time”.
Note: Subsidized loans are only for undergraduate students.
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
This is essentially the same thing as a subsidized loan, EXCEPT you are responsible for paying the interest on the loan while you are in school. So, to be clear subsidized loans ARE better than unsubsidized loans, in most cases. Again, always consult your financial aid office about your specific financial aid packages and opportunities.
Note: Unsubsidized loans are for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
5. Have I effectively used my transfer credits from AP and Dual enrollment courses?
If you took AP classes or did dual enrollment, double-check and make sure you are getting all your transfer credits. This tip can be especially useful when you want to get out of taking a gen-ed (general education requirement).
For example, If you took AP U.S. History in high school and passed the AP Exam, make sure that your school is giving you the proper transfer credits and applying them in a way that helps you. In this example, an AP U.S. History credit could get you out of taking a history class in college.
At my university, each class was almost $1,000 per credit hour. So, getting that AP U.S. History class to count as a 3-credit hour college history class could save you $3,000. That is not chump change.
Maximizing this knowledge could save you time on several classes and thousands in tuition since it decreases the number of hours you need to complete your major.
6. Am I able to buy a cheaper meal plan?
Meal Plans can be extremely expensive, especially in your Freshman and Sophomore years. If you are someone that does not eat your university’s cafeteria food a lot, it might be helpful to look at the requirements to get a cheaper meal plan. This can be especially helpful for students that have dietary restrictions where eating on-campus would not be your main food source.
7. How long am I required to live on campus?
Moving off-campus is almost always cheaper than living on campus. Knowing the eligibility requirements for living off-campus can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over your college career. Plus, you will most likely have more room to yourself, as dorm rooms can usually be on the smaller side when compared to off-campus living.
Putting It All Together
Knowing where you stand with each of these questions gives you a lot of leverage for shaping your college career as well as saving money throughout it. If you are interested in hearing about some specific ways that you can save money in college right now, be sure to check it out below.
Read More: 5 Ways To Save Money In College Right Now
Best of luck adulting!
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About The Author
Donald Williams, Jr.
Donald is an avid believer in helping young people prepare for adulthood. He spends his time working on Adulting Starts Here and helping new adults plan for the future. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and going to the beach.