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How to be a Successful College Student Without Breaking the Bank

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

When I was about to begin college, I didn't know a lot about how to be a successful student or how to cut costs. I knew I would have to take greater initiative to build better study habits and budget, but I didn't yet have the tools to do so. With the help of a friend and some research, I found several great resources to do just that. Whichever school you attend will boast several resources that provide the support you need to be successful. Here are a few additional resources your college won't tell you about that will help you get great grades—and for cheaper!

Textbook rentals made easy

You may know of Chegg for homework solutions, but did you know you can also rent textbooks from there? Chegg can help you save up to 90% on textbook rentals; they also offer free shipping, a great return policy, and excellent customer feedback!

Chegg makes it easy: rentals are on a semester basis, so you will have plenty of time with the book no matter the length of your terms. Simply search for your book, rent it, and keep the box it comes in; at the end, print a free shipping label (provided by the website) and drop it off at an appropriate shipping store. Your textbook costs can be lowered from hundreds to less than a hundred! As a college student, this was one of the most effective ways to cut down on costs. It allows you to have a physical and/or digital copy of a textbook without paying the school's bookstore an arm and a leg for it. The best part? You're allowed to highlight in it (but I would recommend using an erasable highlighter)!

Paperless note-taking apps: Save money and the environment!

If you enjoy taking notes digitally—and want to reduce your paper trail—there are several great applications for you to choose from. Evernote is compatible with several devices and utilizes syncing technology to promote accessibility from anywhere. Getting organized is easy with Evernote, as you can create separate notebooks for each class or use tags to sort by topic. You can also add reminders, images, formatting guides, perform full-text searches, and more! Evernote basic is completely free and fulfills all your basic note-taking needs. Evernote's auto-save feature also allows you to take notes without worrying about losing them.

For iPad users, Notability is well-liked among students, offering many of the same features as Evernote. You can even use audio recordings that convert into notes! You can use different “paper” styles to give your notes and write directly on the document to give your notes a hand-drawn look and feel without using tons of paper.

Choosing your professors wisely

While it’s not always good to take others’ experiences as gospel, is helpful for a couple of reasons: first, you can use it to find out which professors are favored at the school--and which ones aren’t. Second, it can help when you have to take a class with a difficult professor; when I was at community college, the biopsychology course I needed to transfer was only offered by one professor who was notoriously difficult. After reading the reviews, I had time to mentally prepare myself for the course and gathered insight about what the course layout would be like ahead of time.

Sometimes, you need to take the reviews with a grain of salt; but a lot of the time, it is a valuable tool to find the best professors and prepare for the worst. When I transferred to UC Irvine, I continued using the website so I could be sure to take my core classes with the best professors; I waited a whole year to take a core class just because the reviews for the professor who had taught it said they assigned too many essay questions in their exams!

Getting your writing looked over for free

Most colleges will have an online writing center. You can use this for your course papers, cover letters, college admissions essays, and more. Best of all, the services are totally free and may provide several peer reviewers who can give careful and detailed feedback quickly. This is a great resource for when you want your paper looked over by somebody without having to bug your professor or a peer for help. It is also a great real-life alternative to online grammar tools!

You can also use free external resources such as Grammarly, but not that you won't get the same personal feedback that may be helpful from a writing center. If you just need a quick grammar check, this resource is great; but if you want somebody who can check that your writing is coherent and compelling, look into your school's free writing center.

Enhancing your study sessions with study ambience

If you deal with online classes or studying at home, you may quickly realize how hard it is to create a motivating and study-conducive environment. YouTube has many channels that make soundscapes for studying, as well as channels featuring people studying in real-time so you can have a virtual study buddy! Whether you want to study for hours straight or have structured breaks between study sessions, a variety of channels provide the atmosphere to help you complete your assignments and cram for your exams. Some of my personal favorite channels are Merve, Study to Success, and Miracle Forest.

The more you learn to be resourceful in college, the more prepared you will be in pursuing your career, maintaining your finances, and organizing your life.

College can be hard, but it's an invaluable time to develop a strong work ethic as a young professional. The more you learn to be resourceful in college, the more prepared you will be in pursuing your career, maintaining your finances, and organizing your life. Always be sure to reach out to your older peers, professors, and teacher's assistants to gather unique insight on how to be a successful student and professional. Good luck and go get that degree!


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