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Easing the Transition: Financial Strategies for Returning to School

4. Seek out job opportunities on campus. If your back-to-school plans include a part-time job, here are four advantages to finding one on campus: a) Hourly pay is generally higher than the going rate for part-time jobs off campus. b) Many departments on campus offer a tuition waiver as a benefit to their student employees, in addition to the hourly pay. At the graduate level, this can be a savings of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in tuition. c) Working on campus puts you in touch with others in your same situation and allows the benefits of networking with others to occur without much effort. d) Job schedules usually accommodate your class schedule when you work on campus, not the other way around. Off-campus jobs can be limiting, time-consuming and not terribly student-friendly.

5. Look into student health insurance policies and on campus health facilities. The high cost of today’s medical insurance and treatments can be prohibitive, especially if it was a former perk of your fulltime job you no longer have. Generally speaking, student health insurance and doctor visits to the clinic on campus are far cheaper than what you pay in the private sector. If you must carry your own healthcare policy, check out what the school has to offer. It will be much less expensive than other alternatives. Avoid the temptation to go without insurance, due to limited finances. One illness or accident could be financially devastating to you if uninsured. Online resources for insurance include: Student Resources, Champion Insurance, and The Chickering Group.

6. Other general cost savers to consider: a) Textbooks are very expensive. Consider buying them used and selling them back at the end of each semester, and don’t forget that many online stores offer better prices than campus bookstores. b) Inquire at area businesses if they offer student discounts and be ready to flash your new student ID to take advantage of savings. c) Barter your services/skills with fellow classmates on everything from sewing, childcare, and house sitting, to editing papers, fixing broken computers, tutoring and carpooling to save money. d) Generate extra income by selling
household items that you will no longer need in your new student lifestyle on eBay, in garage sales, or by placing ads in the student newspaper.

Making the decision to return to school is a huge one. Deciding what degree to pursue is the easy part. Figuring out how to make it happen and adjusting to a different lifestyle is where the real decisions occur. In retrospect, returning to school was the best decision I ever made. Although I now have student loans to show for my time there, I also now have an advanced degree which will be around long after the last financial aid bill is paid.

A former public school teacher, Karen Bachman Barnett has professional experience in children's literature and literacy programs, a passion for volunteer work and a master's degree in social sciences. Currently she works at the local chapter of a large, well-known nonprofit agency and is a freelance writer in her spare time. She enjoys living in Florida with her husband, Tim.

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