By Sabine Galvis
My experience with college finances has been a story of stress and worry. I often find myself wondering how I can stretch out each dollar to cover the various costs of attending school while having time to maintain my grades and extracurricular involvement.
Unlike many of my peers, I cannot rely on my parents to take care of my expenses. When I told my mother I wanted to live in off-campus housing for my sophomore year, she promptly informed me that any money I received for my birthday or Christmas would have to go towards rent. I also spent my summer working two minimum wages jobs for a combined 40-50 hours each week.
Now, the precious cash I accumulated sits in my bank account, dwindling month-to-month. I must always remember to be careful and keep a vigilant eye on my account balances. It can be hard to escape the feelings of frustration as I compare my financial situation to those around me.
Of course, colleges also provide many opportunities that can lessen the financial burden on students. With a little resourcefulness, students can dig up some easy ways to supplement what they already have.
Living in the dorms my freshman year, I noticed posters for simple scholarships. They varied in their requirements but did not demand extensive effort. Students who were willing to do brief write-ups or create art relating to a particular subject were offered several hundred dollars in exchange for their work. If you feel passionate about certain topics, some brief research online or talking to a knowledgeable professor can lead to a variety of interesting scholarship competitions that will allow you to tap into your existing passions.
Another option found on campus is to check for flyers that offer quick cash or gift cards for participating in sleep studies or for filling out surveys. Students were willing to pay other students between $5 to $20 for their help in completing research. Flyers were pinned up on public cork boards and were posted regularly in the communal bathroom stalls of my dorm building.
One of my favorite ways to save and even earn money quickly is to look for special volunteering opportunities. I often received emails from both my university itself and from organizations I’m affiliated with about events. Often, they reward the students who work as temporary staff with free meals or prizes. At one local charity event, I received free transportation, a full course meal and $275 in gift cards for only a few hours of work. The events are usually fun and engaging, and can even offer students chances to network and become more involved in the future.
Student clubs usually do not offer financial incentives for attendance but can help cut back on costs in other ways. They may offer funding for travel and attending conferences. On a more day-to-day basis, many clubs offer pizza or other catering options to those who attend meetings. They also regularly give away promotional clothing and swag, further reducing the need to purchase these things on your own.
By keeping tabs on social media and in person for relevant opportunities, an overwhelmed and overly stressed student can pick and choose what opportunities to invest a little bit of time in, allowing them to reap the rewards without the demand of a long-term time commitment.
Sabine Galvis is a student at Arizona State University.