There’s no doubt that college tuition is high these days, but so far that hasn’t had much of an impact on the desire and willingness of many students to enroll in higher education programs. Yet even though there are many who are willing to brave the high costs and extensive debt that a college degree may entail, many students may not really be getting the most out of their college tuition and are missing out on some serious benefits. The high price of college can be worth it, but students have to work to get the most for their money by taking advantage of all the resources and opportunities college tuition affords them. Here we highlight some of the ways that students can make sure they get as much as they can from every tuition dollar, academically and socially, and graduate ready to take on the real world.
Here are some ways to get more out of your college courses and maximize every tuition dollar you spend.
- Go to class. Each class you take at school costs you thousands of dollars, so why would you skip out on going to the very thing you’re paying for? Going to class is one of the most obvious and most helpful ways to make your college dollars go further.
- Get to know your professors. One of the biggest assets of any college is the expertise of its professors. Don’t skip out on taking advantage of that resource. By getting to know your professors, you’ll get more out of your classes and build connections that could help you later on.
- Attend talks and conferences. Nearly every college is host to talks and academic symposiums throughout the year, often offering students the chance to meet and learn more about those working within their major, as well as expanding their knowledge of the field. These opportunities are almost always free, so it only makes sense to take advantage while you can.
- Take courses that will benefit you, not just check off requirements. If you’re going to invest money in taking courses, make sure they’ll matter and not just fulfill your gen ed or elective requirements. Choose courses that will supplement your major, help you pick up a minor, or explore areas of study that you’ve always found interesting rather than signing up for courses that are too easy or that won’t offer you much you can take with you later on.
- Go beyond the syllabus. While a course syllabus will cover the essentials of a topic, there’s almost always much more to learn about a given topic than it can possibly cover. If you find a topic to be interesting, ask your professor for additional reading or ideas on how to learn more. Then, head to the library and expand your knowledge.
- Ask questions. You’re not just paying to have professors lecture you on a topic, you’re also paying to get access to them and have them help you to understand the material. Never be afraid to ask questions if things don’t seem clear or if there’s something you want to know more about. It can help you to get much more out of your educational experience.
- Do the reading. Don’t shrug off reading assignments from your classes. If you bought the textbook, get the most out of it by actually doing these readings. You’ll learn something new or at the very least get a good review of class lectures.
- Go to office hours. As we’ve discussed, your professors can be a great resource to you while you’re in school. One of the best places to meet up with them is during office hours. This is the time you can ask questions, get guidance on your major, or even get their feedback on your work.
- Pay attention. It isn’t enough to just go to class; you also have to actually pay attention. Take notes, ask questions, and get actively engaged in what’s going on in the classroom so you can get the most out of your investment.
- Challenge yourself. You could go through college taking the easiest courses possible, but that path won’t really help you make the most of your tuition. College puts quite a few resources at your disposal that can be used to challenge yourself. It might not be the path of least resistance, but it will help you see what you’re made of and help you to stand out from your peers, which can be invaluable assets in the real world.
- Embrace teamwork. Being able to work in a team is a seriously valuable skill that you’ll use time and time again on your future job. College is a great place to build up that skill, so don’t groan when you have to work in a group. Instead, make the most of the experience and learn to collaborate and work together.
- Make your work meaningful. When asked to write a paper or do a research project for class, don’t just choose a topic because it seems easy. Choose something that genuinely interests you and that will get you more engaged with your field. That kind of work will not only help you complete your courses but will better prepare you for the professional world.
- Get help with academic areas where you struggle. If you’re having difficulty with your courses, there’s no reason to just muddle through when you’ve got access to loads of help on campus. Study with your peers, ask for help from your professor, or take advantage of free or reduced cost tutoring programs that can help you get better grades.
- Take notes you can use again. When taking notes, don’t just scribble down a few random things that you probably won’t understand when you look back at them. Make the most of your time in class and the work you’re doing by taking notes that you can use to study or to review the material from the course later in your college career.
- Ask librarians for help. Librarians can be great resources for students who are looking to make their tuition dollars go a little further. They can help you to advance your research and can point you to resources available at the library that you might not have even known existed.
- Take a wide range of courses. While you do want your courses to apply to your major and your career goals, make sure you’re also expanding your horizons. College offers you a chance to explore ideas and topics that you might not have time to engage with later on.
Here are ways to ensure your tuition dollars help your career as much as possible.
- Network with alumni. Many colleges offer events that give students a chance to meet and get to know alumni in their major. Few opportunities after school will be so ripe for networking and making connections that could lead to work after graduation.
- Get involved in leadership roles. College offers a wide range of chances to get involved with clubs and organizations that allow you to take on a leadership role. This can be great practice for life after school.
- Boost skills you’ll need throughout life. The college setting can be very helpful in helping you learn skills that you’ll use throughout life. From public speaking, to writing coherent emails, to managing a project, you’ll get practice doing things you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, so make the most of those opportunities.
- Talk to your advisors. Some students go through college interacting with academic advisors as little as possible, but that doesn’t always make sense, especially since they offer free advice that can help you get more out of your courses. Make an appointment to meet with them so you can ask what courses to take, get ideas on minors, or even just to get support in areas where you feel uncertain.
- Head to career services. Career services offices at colleges are often drastically under-utilized but can be a big help to students in need of a little post-grad guidance. Never again in your life will you get access to so much free help with fine-tuning your resume, finding internships, building career skills, and getting a job after college so take advantage of it while you can.
- Learn about work training courses. In light of poor unemployment prospects for new grads, many colleges are offering free courses and workshops to help students learn job skills, write resumes, and other essentials of the working world. They can give you a serious leg up after graduation, so take advantage of any job hunting help they might offer.
- Choose a helpful minor. Very often, the courses you take to complete the requirements for your major can be greatly supported by choosing a smart minor. The courses from your minor can explore a facet of your major you find interesting or help you learn skills that will serve you well in your major.
Outside of Class
Even when you’re not in class you can take advantage of numerous opportunities your tuition affords you. Here are just a few.
- Attend campus events. Not only does your tuition cover the essentials of your academic endeavors, it also offers you the chance to kick back and relax with free entertainment. Make the most of campus events, from movies to concerts to comedy shows, which are often offered to students for free or at a discounted rate.
- Use university funds to start a group. If there is no club for the interests you have at school, why not start your own? Most universities have funds set aside (taken from the fees you pay) to help students do just that, which means that virtually anyone can pursue whatever they’re interested in on campus.
- Join clubs and sports. Clubs and sports are not only ways to make friends, learn, and have fun, they’re also sponsored by your student union, which draws funds from your tuition costs. If you’re already paying for access to these great groups, why not make the most of the opportunities they offer?
- Engage in campus traditions. Whether it’s streaking across the quad or kissing in a certain place on campus, campus traditions can help you build camaraderie, develop a sense of pride in your school, and give you some amazing memories to look back on later. Even better, they won’t cost you a thing.
- Explore interests. There are so many resources at college for exploring just about anything you could be interested in. Clubs, library media, courses, museums, academic experts, and talks are just a few of the avenues you can use to find out more about things you’re interested in, whether you plan to pursue them as a major or not.
- Get enough sleep. You won’t get as much, educationally anyway, out of your college experience if you go through it half asleep. Make sure you’re getting enough rest so you can be in peak mental condition in class and when doing homework. If you’re having trouble, many colleges offer support and resources to help you learn to sleep better and battle insomnia.
- Get movies, music, and magazines for free. There’s no need to invest your own dollars in media like movies, music, and magazines while you’re in college. Why not? Because your library already provides access to them for free. Simply head to your college library to read the latest issues of your favorite magazine or to check out great DVDs and CDs.
- Learn about people from other backgrounds. Many students may not realize how much of an asset the diversity provided by college can be. It offers the chance to get to know and work with people from a wide range of backgrounds, making you more socially and culturally aware, tolerant, and capable of working in a diverse setting, all of which can help in the working world.
- Pursue your own projects and ideas. While research and reading assigned by your courses can be great, college is also a great place to pursue your own projects and interests. While in school, you’ll have access to resources that you might not after you graduate, so use that access not only to work on things for class but also to pursue ideas that you think could be pivotal in your career. If you can make your classwork and your pet projects overlap, that’s even better.
- Learn to be an adult. Being on your own can be scary, but it’s good practice for life after college. Whether you’re supporting yourself or getting help from parents, college is the perfect time to learn just what it means to be an independent adult and to get practice in paying bills, holding yourself accountable, and being responsible. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have fun, but it does mean that you know how to balance that fun with learning.
- Feel safe. If you don’t feel safe walking home on campus after a late-night study session, then you don’t have to go it alone. Many schools offer free security escorts to students who need them.
- Try new things. College is also a great time to explore things that are outside of your comfort zone in a fairly low-risk environment. You can try your hand at kayaking, sample new foods in your dorm, or check out performances from all kinds of musical groups. Since these experiences are often already included in your tuition you have little to lose by giving them a try and seeing what you like and don’t like.
Are you making the most of all the on-campus resources to which you have access? Learn more about how to put those resources to use for the benefit of your health, education, and budget.
- Check out books from the library instead of buying them. At least a portion of your tuition dollars go toward supporting your school’s library, so it makes sense to use it as much as you can out of such a rich resource. One way you can do this is by using or checking out textbooks and reading material from the library.
- Sick? Head to the campus health center. Every student’s tuition pays toward supporting care at the campus health center. So if you’re ill, head there for a doctor’s visit, cold medications, and other supplies.
- Work out. Many schools have amazing fitness centers, some even boasting rock climbing walls, Olympic-size pools, and loads of classes. Better yet, these resources are already included in your tuition, so use them. You’ll not only get more out of your tuition, but you’ll be healthier and better able to tackle your courses.
- Ask for tech help. If your computer is on the fritz, you don’t have to seek out help from outside sources. It’s common for schools to offer free tech help for students at their IT centers. Simply bring in your computer and see if tech-savvy students and employees can figure out what’s wrong.
- Improve your writing. Writing is an incredibly valuable skill both in school and in the real world. If you struggle with it, don’t just flounder in class. Use on-campus resources like writing centers and workshops that are already included in your tuition to help you get better at using the written word.
- Tour campus museums. Large schools often offer students a wealth of museum-based resources. Art museums, natural history museums, and anthropological exhibits all offer students numerous ways to learn outside of class.
- Take the bus. Whether you live in a major city or a small town, chances are good that your tuition includes free or discounted rides on public transportation. Why pay for gas when you can get carted around town for free instead?
- Learn tech skills. Workshops and access to high-tech computer labs can help you boost your tech skills while you’re in school. While it might not seem like a big deal, these skills can be assets on a future resume.
- Use unique resources. Colleges afford students access to some pretty unique resources that the general public doesn’t really get a chance to use. Rare books, laboratory space, and a myriad of other school-specific resources won’t be a dime a dozen once you get out of school, so make use of them now.
- Study in the library. Need a quiet place to study? Head to the library. You pay for access, so make use of the corrals, quiet space, and computer labs the library has to offer.
From paying less tuition in the first place to getting help with money management, you can help your tuition dollars give you a financial leg up with these tips.
- Take basic courses at community colleges. Attending a big name university can be great, but do you really need to take basic math and writing courses there? Probably not. Save the expensive stuff for upper level courses and sign up for the basics at a local community college instead.
- Take advantage of discount software. Most schools offer students free or discounted software that they can use to do school work or work on their own projects. If you need these programs, make sure to take advantage of the opportunities your school offers to get them at a lower price.
- Pay as little tuition as possible. It might go without saying, but the best way to get more out of your tuition is to pay less. That may not be as hard as you think. There are countless scholarships, financial aid programs, grants, and even tuition waiver programs offered at colleges all over the U.S. You might need to do a little work to pursue them, but it could pay off big in the end.
- Get help with financial literacy. Another resource increasingly being offered at colleges are courses on financial planning and good money management. If you struggle to balance your finances or just want a little help in understanding what to do once you’re out in the real world, these courses, which are already included in your tuition, can be a valuable asset.
- Use your student ID for discounts. Your student ID entitles you to all kinds of discounts, both on campus and off. You can get breaks on everything from a new computer to a sandwich, so use your student ID for all it’s worth.
- Take a full course load. Taking more courses does cost more up front (and may be more stressful), but it can save you in the long run. The faster you finish school, the sooner you won’t be paying for all the fees that go along with it, which are the same whether you take one course or five. What’s more, finishing college more quickly will allow you to get into the working world and earning money in less time.
- Keep printed material and papers. If you print off readings for class, keep them so you can use them later on. The same goes for papers. It’s not enough to have the original file, as the graded version contains helpful comments you can use the next time you’re writing.