Managing finances is one of the biggest challenges for college students, especially for those living independently for the first time. Fortunately, there are many resources available to students through their college or university to help with the costs of living and college expenses. 

Tapping into the Financial Resources at Your School

The first step is to always fill out a FAFSA or CADAA. The priority deadline is March 2, and aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if students are not expecting much federal aid these applications are necessary for other financial aid like state grants and scholarships. We’ll link the FAFSA and CADAA websites down below, as well as places to find and apply for scholarships. At each college there are resources for students of all backgrounds, such as first-generation college students, POC students, students who are parents and many more. Most California colleges have an EOP, Educational Opportunity Program, which offers academic and financial support to historically underserved populations of students. It may have different names at different schools, but regardless it serves the student population with financial resources. Some of these resources include, but are not limited to transportation assistance like free/reduced bus passes, discounts on Uber rides to and from campus, textbook assistance, and much more. Working on-campus is a great way for students to pay for living expenses and cut down on the  cost of transportation to a job off-campus. It also helps students hear about financial resources, opportunities and events on campus much sooner, as well as contributing to their resume. Students can also actively seek out paid internships that align with their career goals and receive payments or a stipend from these programs. Lastly, students should be mindful of the financial resources available through the state, county, or city they live in. We encourage everyone to apply for CalFresh, look into their local food pantry or food distribution sites. Budget with priority for their necessities and later factor in expenses for entertainment and leisure. Being mindful of these expenses while trying to manage school life is not easy, but knowing where to access help and how to allocate money wisely is a necessary skill for college students. 

Budgeting Food 

In college, food options are endless, so it can be difficult to avoid spending excess amounts of money on food. College meal plans are convenient for certain students such as for those living in the dorms or spending long hours on campus. These plans offer them on-site dining and time preferences. Most colleges have established on-campus food pantries that provide emergency relief resources for those in need. What’s more, quick bites to eat are often offered on campus through student organizations, it’s just a matter of finding them. There is certainly no shortage of food options on campus, but off-campus resources are just as abundant. EBT, such as CalFresh, provides food assistance in the form of monthly stipends. Food discounts are widely available both online or on print. In addition, certain areas across California offer mobile food discount platforms. 

Acquiring Textbooks 

Textbooks for college are unnecessarily expensive. Students want to avoid paying the market price for textbooks as the money spent on them could be used for various other goods. Students can avoid this problem by applying to textbooks waivers provided by organizations or  financial assistance programs at their college. What’s more, online websites such as Chegg, Amazon, and often have reduced priced books for purchase or rent in new or used conditions. Free or affordable PDF versions of textbooks are also available through the internet. Sharing textbooks with a peer or purchasing it from former students is yet another budget friendly option. Bottom line is, unless the textbook is an investment for future courses, it is worth looking into free or low-cost textbook options. 

Student Discounts 

There are a lot of discounts that are exclusively available to students if they search online, view websites, or even ask in person. Options range from technology, clothing, entertainment, and utilities among others. By taking full advantage of student discounts, budgeting and saving, are two of the many benefits incurred. Popular examples are UniDays, Honey extension, and Student Beans. In addition, various platforms such as Amazon Prime,  Doordash, Chegg, Hulu, Spotify, and Youtube among others, offer student plans. 


Free Application for Federal Student Aid

CA Dream Act Application


California Scholarships

Chegg – Used Textbooks