Heading to college is always a big decision to make. There are financial elements. There are the intimidating elements of moving out of home for potentially the first time. The whole thing can feel a little overwhelming and many of us don’t even know where to start. But don’t worry. With the right information, things should be pretty straightforward and easy to organize. Here are a few different areas to focus on that will ensure you take your first steps into higher education properly.
Financing Your Studies
Studying is expensive. You may be wondering how to go about funding your studies so that you can not only pay your tuition fees, but so that you can also fund living while you’re studying. Here are a few pieces of advice that could help you along the way.
Finding a Student Loan
The vast majority of students apply for student loans to fund their studies. Put simply, a student loan is a money that you will borrow – either from the government or from a private lender – and then use to pay for your studies at college. A loan is not free money. It will have to be paid back at a later date once you have finished your studies, in agreed installments, with interest attached. You are very likely to pay back more money than you borrowed in the first place. This may feel a little unfair, but for those of us who don’t have enough money to pay for college upfront, it is pretty much the only option. You are likely to use your loan to pay for a number of things, including tuition fees, accommodation, books, supplies, printing, college fees, course materials, and other costs associated with studying.
Applying for a student loan can feel like a drawn-out process, but getting your application right the first time around can really help. Most people opt for federal student loans and start the application process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form will require information from both students and their parents, including personal financial information. The form will then be sent to your colleges of choice. The colleges’ financial aid offices will then figure out whether you qualify for a loan and how much student aid you are eligible for. They will then make a financial aid offer in the form of an “award letter”.
If you’re considering a private student loan, you will apply to the lender you’re considering directly and they will make a decision and get back to you. If you’re thinking about a private lender, consider Earnest student loans.
Both federal and private loans will require you to sign a promissory note, which is essentially a legal document in which you agree to repay the loan plus interest. It will also include all of the terms and conditions of the loan. Make sure to read this fully to ensure you’re happy with all of the terms.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Of course, it’s always worth checking whether you’re eligible for any scholarships or grants that your chosen college or other bodies may be offering. The vast majority of colleges will have some sort of scholarship scheme for each course that they run. In short, a scholarship, or a grant, is a sum of money that someone will award to you to help fund your studies and further your education. Unlike a loan, which has to be paid back and accrues interest, it doesn’t need to be paid back at all. It’s simply there to help you. Do plenty of research into what scholarships and grants are available and apply to any that you are eligible for. This can make studying a whole lot more financially viable.
Take On a Part-Time Job
Once you’ve started your studies, you may want to take on a part-time job to help fund your studies. Part-time jobs of all sorts can serve as a good top-up to your finances each month. Many students opt for flexible positions that can fit around their course and assignments, like retail jobs, cafe jobs, waiting jobs, jobs in hotels, cleaning positions, and more. Just make sure that your part-time job doesn’t interfere with your studies. You can’t overwork yourself and you need to remember that your studies are your priority.
Finding Equipment and Items for Your Course
Many courses will require specific equipment or materials that will allow you to study and complete projects set to the best of your potential. Here are a few things that could prove useful for different courses.
Books and Textbooks
Most academic courses will require a whole lot of textbooks. These, of course, can prove pretty expensive. So, get a full reading list for the year and see what you will be reading and what you will need. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid buying books and textbooks brand new. They tend to be extortionate and have huge price tags attached. Instead, consider buying secondhand. While there may be editions in the library, they tend to be in high demand and numbers are limited, so you may find they aren’t available when you need them. Instead, look for low cost, second-hand copies. You can often find these on sites like eBay or online second-hand booksellers. You can also ask students in the year above if anyone is interested in selling books they’re not using anymore, or it’s also worth checking out local charity stores, where students who have graduated may have handed books in. Always ask the seller, as they may have copies out the back that aren’t on display.
Laptops and Computers
Most colleges will have libraries and computer rooms with computers that you can work from. But this does require being on campus every time you work, which can be costly in terms of public transport and inconvenient if you’d rather just work from home. Having your own computer or laptop can be extremely handy and beneficial for you. So, if possible, save and invest in one. There are plenty of different models, ranging from cheaper to more expensive, so there could be something to suit your budget out there.
If you’re taking a creative course, chances are that your college will have some sort of supply or store where you can rent equipment that you may need for your work. But some students prefer to have their own cameras, video recording equipment, and other essentials so that they can work on their own time and not rely on waiting for equipment to be returned. Investing in a DSLR, a DJI Mini 2, or other equipment could give you a lot more freedom with your work.
Getting Ahead of the Game
When people start college, they tend to want to spend a bit of time settling in, making friends, and enjoying the social elements of college life. But at the same time, you don’t want to fall behind on your studies during these times where you’re spending more hours socializing. It’s a good idea to get ahead of your course before you start. You may be able to request a course outline or reading list months ahead of getting started, allowing you to get ahead of reading or watching necessary videos, tutorials, or films, well in advance of when you need these things completed. This, of course, is very proactive and not entirely essential. But it can really help you in the long run.
Picking Up Some Life Skills
If you haven’t lived away from home before, and haven’t been given much experience when it comes to taking care of yourself, your belongings, and your home yourself, it’s a good idea to pick up some basic life skills before leaving. Learn how to cook a few different dishes. Learn how to use the washer dryer and how to correctly clean your own clothes without ruining them. Learn basic household tasks. They’ll really come in useful when you do finally support yourself independently.
Make a Few Friends in Advance
If you’re heading far away, you may feel worried about being alone or isolated. The good news is that many people are in the same boat and many people will be eager to make friends once they arrive on campus. You’ll probably be able to find social media pages where you can connect with other new starters and people who will be on your course before you get there. This will give you the comfort of knowing there will be some familiar faces there when you arrive!
Heading away for college is a big step in your life. So, it’s not all too surprising that you will want to feel as prepared as possible! Hopefully, some of the above advice can help you along the way. Sure, it’s varied. But these are all the steps you’re going to have to take to make sure that you’re comfortable and can be productive once your course starts!