UIC’s tuition is pretty cheap compared to other universities, but it’ll still make you want to cry when you realize how many loans you have to take out and convince your parents to agree it’s the best choice and still worth the money (although, if you are paying for it all by yourself…I guess you’ll have to be fighting with your brain!). My parents always tell me not to worry about money because they can just take out loans and that “one day you’ll make much more money to pay it back and still have a great big house” but is that really going to happen? Seeing as how the economy has been, I am pretty sure that everyone will struggle to make ends meet…and the most important thing is being happy with what you do and have a goal in mind to keep yourself motivated.
So, with that statement in mind, it really is important when you are in college to find out what appeals the most to you, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Finding the right career choice for every person is difficult and needs to take in every consideration. I’m not as good at math and science compared to other subjects (or compared to other people, haha), but that does not mean that I do not appreciate it…I’m able to tolerate my not-so-smart brain with hard work when it comes to math and science.
Here is a list of things that I do to save money (or get money) while being a full-time student with lots of loans and minimum scholarships. Most of these tips are pretty obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder!
- Apply for FAFSA. The financial aid office is probably the most annoying place you’ll have to deal with when filling out your FAFSA online and turning in extra forms at SSB, specifically the dependent verification form (I had to go four times until they finally accepted my forms!). As annoying and unhelpful that place is (depends on the person who helps you I suppose), they are your gate-way to receiving governmental aid. Includes loans (subsidized and unsubsidized, in which the latter is the one that has a very high interest rate), federal work study (HEART<3), and a bunch of other goodies like the MAP grant. Sometimes FAFSA is unhelpful for those who have parents that make a lot of money and so those students usually do not bother applying.
- Apply for scholarships. As a UIC student, you have many opportunities to apply for need-based and merit-based scholarships. I have personally been a recipient of the Association Award through SAUIC. Being an Honors College student, you have the opportunity to apply for tuition waivers and other scholarships that non-honors students cannot. You should also signup for Fastweb or Cappex to receive e-mails of scholarships you can apply for based on the information you give about yourself (GPA, Major, Professional Goal, etc.).
- Live on campus. You’re probably surprised when I mention this point, but if you believe in the statement of “time is money,” then you’ll agree with me that living on campus is the best choice. It’s not the choice for everyone though. For example, if you do not have a job and do not have financial support from your parents when it comes to paying for tuition, living at home is better. On the other hand, if you do not have a job but actively apply for financial aid and scholarships…and want to get a job on campus, then living at UIC will probably be a good choice for you. UIC is largely a commuter school, so while many choose to commute because “living on campus is just so much more expensive”…I disagree. Check out what UIC Campus Housing offers in addition to a new home (free laundry, free printing, security, lots of study lounges, faculty-in-residence, peer mentors, resident assistants…).
- Go out to explore, not buy. Shopping is not necessary. I personally only go for the fitness (walk around everywhere)! Unless I absolutely need something (toiletries, shampoo, food), I don’t buy it. Clothes? Eh, I don’t have anyone to impress. Besides, I want to lose a little flab before I buy any new clothes. Your computer died? Well, that’s why you have free access to a library full of computers (or computer lab at your residence hall). Actually, that goes to my next point.
- Take advantage of your resources on campus. The UIC Library is free, the recreation center is free (and that includes free classes for those who do not want to pay), the counseling center is free, the writing center is free, and the list goes on. FREE FREE FREE! Heck, students can even get free contraceptions at the Wellness Center or RA.
- Borrow books, rent books, or just don’t get them at all. Owning a textbook is only beneficial if you are going to use it again. I’d recommend those who take Nutrition 196 and nothing beyond that to buy the book because it contains a lot of useful information that anyone can refer to when it comes to food. Besides that, I wouldn’t own a single book unless it was a special UIC version that I was forced to purchase (like Microbiology). I’ve never purchased an e-book before, so I can’t say what the pros and cons of that are. Most people with science majors take the same classes, and hence have to get the same book. Talk to upperclassmen about borrowing books. I’ve rented my biology textbooks from Chegg and bought cheap paperbacks from Amazon (sign up for Amazon Student to get free shipping). If you’re wondering if you should even bother purchasing a book for a class, wait a week to buy to see how the class is structured. If the professor uses lecture capture (every lecture gets recorded and can be viewed as video later on Blackboard) or has incredibly good powerpoints with all the information you’ll need for the exam, you might not need a book to be successful in the class. I’d check out Ratemyprofessors.com to see what other students have recommended for textbook usage.
- Use your student status when buying anything! People know college students are the poor, and so that’s why a lot of places offer student discounts, whether it’s buying online, buying a movie ticket, going out for dinner at Joy Yees or Kohan…make sure when you buy something, you ask if they offer a student discount.
- Buy in bulk. I buy notebooks/notepads in stacks from Staples or Office Depot. I always buy my food at Sam’s Club since I don’t have a meal plan at MRH.
- Keep things in good shape. Don’t wear the same shoes all the time; change them with a different pair every so often to make them both last longer.
- Be healthy. You don’t have to spend money on medicine or medical services (although, if you’re like me and automatically enrolled in Campus Care at UIC during the school year, take advantage of all medical services because you pay VERY VERY VERY little or NOTHING!).
- Find a part-time job. I already have four jobs (actually, I just got a new job so make that five jobs). I make very little money (roughly $200 every two weeks), but at least I’m trying! Even though I could be using my work time for studying, I just feel that I’m more useful in the world and acquire hands-on the skills I’ll need in the future that I don’t get out of my classes. UIC Career Services or the Student Employment center may be of help, or just Google what you’re looking for in a part-time job. I mainly got my jobs by reading all of the emails I receive from UIC and going to club meetings or talking to professors.
There’s probably more, but this is a good start. If you have anything that helps you survive in this economy you’d like to share, please leave a comment! :D
Anyway, summer has been pretty awesome. I’ll be living at SSR and working five jobs. Even though all of them pay more or less minimum wage (or not at all so I guess one of the jobs is now considered volunteering), I enjoy what I do a lot. My skin has been really great (because no more school, haha) and I am hoping to try traditional medicine (acupuncture) either here or in Taiwan to see if that will get rid of my eczema. I am hoping to draw on my Wacom tablet and then post a drawing up! Unfortunately my netbook is crazy slow and I should upgrade sometime soon…but electronics are always quite expensive (and the programs I need!).