As a cash-strapped college student, freebies often equal savings. Whether you are in the planning stage or just graduating, you will find plenty of free things to help you throughout your collegiate years.
Incoming College Freshmen
Paying for college is expensive. Exactly how expensive usually comes as a shock to both parents and students as they enter their first year of higher education. Even if you have a college fund, bills will add up quickly.
The first thing that any high school junior or senior should do is attend every free seminar their high school provides, whether it's a general planning session or one geared toward a specific university. Not only can you collect fun items like car decals, pens, magnets and t-shirts, but you will also learn some valuable information about that college's costs and campus life.
High school seniors should think about applying for financial aid and scholarships. Not all aid comes in the form of expensive loans. Grants usually are free money for those who qualify. Scholarships that have been earned through academic, athletic, creative or citizenship merits often have grade point minimums and class loads that must be maintained, but are otherwise free.
Learn more about planning for college by using these free resources:
- Financial Aid Resource Publications from the U.S. Department of Education: Download the newest free version of the Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid for information on applying for grants, loans and work study programs.
- FastWeb: Become a free member of FastWeb to search their databases for thousands of scholarships that might be available to you.
- Playbook for Life: The Harford, in cooperation with the NCAA, has developed a free program that helps teens and college students create realistic financial plans for their future. Parents and students can download guides and use the website for free.
Freshmen college students should plan to attend welcoming social activities that are held on campus the first week of school. Not only are there usually booths set up with plenty of free product samples from companies that market to college students, but free food and drink is often available.
College Student Freebies
College students in the midst of their education may find their money is disappearing faster than they anticipated. Freebies can help offset many minor, and some major, expenses.
Members of academic or social clubs should attend events sponsored by their clubs when food is being offered for free. You may have to dress up or participate in a group activity, but it's worth it for a free meal. And a bonus-membership looks good on a resume when you graduate!
Grocery stores may offer free samples on a particular day of the week or month. Scout out local grocers and talk to others on campus to find out when and where sample day is held, and plan to eat your noon meal as you buy your groceries.
Requesting free samples is not just for stay-at-home moms. College students can get plenty of free product samples they will find useful. Search for the following products on sampling search sites like Hey, It's Free! and MySavings.com:
- Cereal and other dried goods foods
- Laundry detergent
- Eye drops
If you cannot send the sample directly to your dorm room, have it mailed to a friend in a nearby house or apartment that will collect it for you. Parents can also request samples to put in a care package.
The first thing you should do is check out whether your college or university offers free student healthcare. Even though it might be free to all students, you may still have to fill out a form to request it. If free student health is not available, watch for fliers or advertisements for free flu shots or checkups that may periodically be available to everyone on campus.
Another service to sign up for is Skype. Download the software to your computer and you can call anyone else with the software for free (computer to computer calling).
Textbooks are an expense college students are well-versed in. After all, new book editions come out frequently and used copies sell out fast in student bookstores. Sign up for socialbib and you can give your used textbooks to others while listing ones you need, with no charge for the books. See the site for more details.
Not all offers that advertise themselves to be free really are. A common trap students are lured into is those "free" credit card offers. With the promise of a t-shirt, zero interest or gift certificates to retailers, companies will get students to sign up for their card. Canceling the card can be difficult after you receive it. Some students cannot resist making just a few purchases that add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars of consumer debt.
Online offers for free items might require you to give out personal information, take surveys, participate in offers from sister companies and more. Read all of the terms and conditions carefully, as you can often end up signing up for a "free trial" and will get charged after the trial has ended. If the steps seem too convoluted, it may be a scam.
As a college student, you will also be ethically bound by school rules not to plagiarize. This includes using free term papers or essays you have found on the Internet. You may flunk a class or be kicked out of college.
College student freebies can be found before you even set foot on campus. Once there, take advantage of all the free things you can, as tuition and living expenses are expected to continue rising. Learn more about university expenses and campus life at LoveToKnow College.