Financial Friday: Research: One of the Most Important Cost-Saving Tools in College

No matter what stage of college you are in, there’s always tons of research to be done. Maybe you’ve just been accepted to Pitt and are looking for loans to fund your time here. Perhaps you are already attending but could still use some financial help, and are wondering what scholarships you could still receive. Or you might be moving off campus and want to optimize your living expenses. The point is that as long as you are in school, there is always something that can and should be researched. Today’s Financial Friday will take a look at some of these areas and how to research them. Let’s begin with student loans.

Student loans are either provided by the government or by private institutions. The government-provided are preferred, as they tend to offer terms more favorable to students. However, not all students qualify for government-funded loans, and if you are one of these students, but still need aid, private education loans provide an option. Private education loans operate similarly to government-funded ones, but tend to dictate their terms more heavily by the free market, which leads to more variable terms between lenders. This emphasizes the importance of researching many different private loans to make sure you receive the best terms possible.

Two important factors of loan terms to compare are interest and repayment schedules. Lower interest rates and accrual of interest after graduation reduce the amount you have to pay back later. Repayment schedules that do not begin until after graduation do not reduce the total amount you pay back, but not having to pay anything back during college is usually the preferred option. These differences can make substantial differences in your liability after school, so make sure to search around. For more information please see the “Private Education Loan Programs” of Pitt’s website. Additionally, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is currently implementing a web based scholarship system, which will be available in the near future. Stay tuned for more information from the Financial Aid Office.

If you’re a currently enrolled student, your scholarship search does not have to be over by any means. Many scholarships within and outside of Pitt exist. While university scholarships are mostly limited to incoming freshman, schools within the university, such as the College of Business Administration, sometimes provide their own scholarships to currently enrolled students. Asking your advisor or looking on your school’s section of Pitt’s website is a good way to look for these types of scholarships.

While, Pitt offers many scholarships to currently enrolled students, sources outside of the university offer even more scholarships. These outside scholarships are a great way to cut into your tuition and living expenses even further. Pitt even assists students in searches for these scholarships.

“Under ‘Types of Financial Aid’ on our website, we list a few scholarship opportunities or search engines students can use to research scholarships,” Said Pitt Financial Aid Counselor Lindsay Smith. This list of search engines on the Office of Financial Aid’s website include Fastweb and the College Board. These opportunities to apply for additional scholarships are everywhere, and the more time you put into searching for them, the more your chance of receiving extra scholarship aid increases. However, loans and scholarships are not the only ways to cut down on the cost of college. Diligence in securing your living situation can go a long way towards saving money as well.

A key to creating a solid, affordable housing situation off campus is researching early and often, and Pitt offers help in beginning the search on the “Apartment Listings” section of its “Off-Campus Living” page. Other common ways to search listings are classifieds like Craigslist, and real-estate sites like Zillow and Trulia. These listing sites are effective resources, but don’t just jump on the first listing you see. Instead, set up multiple appointments to see apartments listed, and see how your options compare. When you do find an available apartment you could see yourself living in, make sure to research the landlord or management company to see the experiences of past tenants. Additionally, check what the landlord includes in the cost of rent. Amenities like laundry are not always included and utilities are often separate expenses that you must still cover yourself. Preparation for living off campus is a long process, but these steps can get the ball rolling effectively.

Your whole financial situation is nowhere near figured out as you enter college, and during your experience in school you’ll likely have major financial dealings outside the university. That’s why it’s important to research all the ways that you can save money during school, for both short and long-term purposes. The factors to research mentioned here are just a few; there’s likely always something affecting your finances that can be helped out by even a bit of research. So no matter what stage of college you’re in, start researching; even a little goes a long way.

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John Hamilton :Managing Editor