Low-Income Students and University
It’s no secret that university can be very expensive. These days, it’s common for student debt to be a major concern for most people considering pursuing a degree. Even years after graduating from post-secondary school, many adults continue to struggle to pay off their student loans. Is university really worth it? Or is the system designed so that only the wealthy can have a higher education? How exactly does one navigate the stresses of going to university while coming from a low-income family?
Coming from a low-income family poses its own set of challenges, outside of those related to university. However, those challenges combined with the difficulties of being a student in university, especially a full-time student, require a certain mindset and plan in order to be successful.
For some, having a job during the school year is necessary. The cost of textbooks, tuition, transportation can sometimes be too much. That is why it is crucial to have good time management skills. There is a limited amount of hours in a day. Therefore, what you do with those hours is extremely important. Especially if some of those hours must go towards a job. Some students pour all their hours into studying and while that may result in good grades, it may also result in poor diet or mental health issues or an unhealthy amount of sleep. It’s important but difficult to find a balance.
Financial Aid services like OSAP and other scholarships and bursaries exist to enable low-income students to attend post-secondary school when it would otherwise be impossible or at least extremely difficult. Be sure to reach out to these resources because they are there primarily to help students.
Individual universities may even have their own programs for students who need some extra money. Maybe try to reach out and find some more information about what kinds of help your school may provide. Applying for these grants and scholarships will make the burden of paying for a higher education a little bit lighter.
Make A Budget
Going into my first year of university, coming from a low-income family, I’ve learned that making a budget is extremely helpful. I haven’t made a budget before starting university, and at first it seems a bit daunting and very adult, but it’s actually quite simple. All you need to do is make some tables and then compare the data.
For my budget, I made one table of my typical expenses and their monthly costs: transportation, food, clothes, and miscellaneous purchases. Next I made a table of my sources of money – that includes savings, OSAP, income from jobs, allowances etc. After that, I compared the two and thought about whether or not the amount I typically spend per month is affordable. I then adjusted the monthly costs of certain expenses to the maximum amount of money that I would allow myself to spend per month.
Not only does this help you know and keep track of how much you spend, but it also gives you a better idea of how you might be able to save some more money. Once you have your two tables, you can now see how much you typically spend per month and whether or not you can actually afford to spend that much. If not, then see if you can spend less money on items that aren’t truly necessary.
Some Thrifty Tips for University Students
Textbooks are a necessary expense if you want to succeed in your classes. It is also a well-known fact that university textbooks tend to be quite expensive. A solution to this is to buy textbooks secondhand from students. Sites like Facebook or Kijiji are full of upper year students selling their textbooks that they don’t need anymore at a reduced cost. I personally have bought all my required textbooks secondhand from students and I’ve saved well over $100. Another tip is to save money where you can. Maybe your morning coffee can be made at home instead of bought from McDonalds or you can block yourself from going on sites like Amazon.
All in all, as hard as university is for low-income students, it’s doable. As long as you have a plan and you stick to it, anything is possible.