Balance your tuition troubles by cashing in on free university resources to get the most out of your student experience.
There are certain places that every university student knows well. The campus pub. The library. The party dorm. That one restaurant in the food court that gives you an extra piece of garlic bread with your slice of pre-fab lasagna. Once we get past the flurry of activity in the first few weeks of school and settle into our academic routines, it's easy to become lazy when it comes to scouting out the resources available on campus. You might be surprised at what most universities offer, often free of charge.
1. Health services
You've entered the beautiful grace period of academia when you're suddenly eligible for health benefits without having to pay for them. Okay, so your tuition and university fees pay for them, but still. Take advantage of free or discounted checkups, doctor referrals, and prescription medications before graduation, when you'll have to start paying into a medical insurance plan.
2. Librarians and interlibrary loans
You know where the library is, but have you ever asked the staff for assistance? University librarians can often guide you in your research. If they lack the personal expertise to answer your questions, they can point you in the right direction. Many campuses also have interlibrary loan programs, which allow you to request material from another university or campus library for delivery to you on loan.
3. Library journal subscriptions
The last thing you want to worry about when you're researching an important assignment is whether you're consulting acceptable sources. University libraries have active subscriptions to accredited online academic journals. Request your login information from the librarian, and you can access an enormous database of scholarly articles appropriate for academic citations.
4. Fitness centers
Gym memberships are expensive, so why not take advantage of the free gyms on campus? Beyond the cardio and weight rooms, campus fitness centers frequently offer classes from yoga to kickboxing, all for free with a swipe of your student card. You might also be able to reserve courts or specialized rooms for group sports or activities.
5. Professor office hours
Sure, it can be intimidating to talk to your professor one-on-one regarding work you're unsure about, but a few minutes of personal consultation is time well spent. Professors are happy to see you making your studies a priority and can provide you with guidance and feedback that can significantly improve your academic performance.
6. International/domestic peer programs
Many universities pair up student volunteers with international students for a cultural exchange experience that is beneficial to both parties. International students can get someone to show them the ropes of an unfamiliar country's customs and social activities. In exchange, domestic students gain exposure to a foreign language and culture.
7. Mental health services
Every student adapts to the stress of university in different ways. Whether you're clinically diagnosed with a severe disorder or just need someone to talk to, the free counseling and various support groups offered by university mental health services could make a huge difference, not only for your academic success but also for your overall well-being.
8. Writing centers
There's a learning curve when it comes to university-level writing assignments. Why not have someone look over your work to help you improve? At your university's writing center, individual reviewers can point out punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors, as well as critique your work for strength of argument, flow, and other critical considerations. If you need specialized assistance, many writing centers recruit student tutors from different faculties.
9. Safety programs
No one should have to feel unsafe at their place of study. Check your university website for information about walk-safe programs (escorts for when you need to cross campus alone at night) or free shuttle services. Some schools even offer shuttles from popular bars back to campus to reduce drunk driving.
10. Disability services
Not only do these services ensure equal accessibility across campus, but some also conduct volunteer-based studies that can diagnose a learning disability and provide assistance. Depending on the funding allocated to these programs, some are able to provide students who have learning disabilities with special technologies, such as computers with dictation software, to help them in their studies.
11. Blood donor clinics
Sometimes a resource is as simple as an opportunity to give back. Check with your campus media outlets or health services for blood donor clinic dates. Besides, everybody loves free cookies and juice.
12. Website and TV subscriptions
Some universities go beyond academic journal subscription. Check yours for potential free student access to such resources as Lynda.com, host to a variety of online courses, and HBO GO. Who wouldn't want four years of free HBO?
13. International Student Registry Card registry
If you haven't purchased an International Student Registry Card (ISIC) yet, do so immediately. Depending on the issuing institution, it will cost $4 to $25. This card allows your student status to be recognized in more than 130 countries and affords you discounts on everything from public transport across Europe to museum entrance fees to late-night pizza binges.
14. Computer labs
We've all experienced the late-night computer crash. It never happens during a Netflix binge—it's always on the last page of that 10,000-word term paper. Thankfully, campus computer labs offer a quiet space to finish your work with printers, scanners, and a lineup of up-to-date software programs at your fingertips.
15. Hair salons (and other personal services)
In every specialized skills program, there are students who need practice. University and college campuses are full of student-run hair salons, massage therapy clinics, and aesthetician parlors that offer services at drastically reduced prices.
16. Campus tech stores
The convenience of an on-campus location, student-centered software, on-site technology experts, AND special discounts? Your campus tech store should be your first stop any time you need a new program or device during your years of study. Even if you don't plan to use what you buy specifically for school, your student discount still applies.
17. Campus media
Most universities run their own radio and TV stations, newspapers, and magazines. Volunteer your time writing, reporting, or editing for these publications and gain valuable work experience in fields that demand a competitive edge.
18. Private study rooms
Sometimes your noisy dorm, shared student house, or library full of chip-crunchers and keyboard-clackers just doesn't cut it. Still, few students actually make use of the private study rooms available for reservation on campus. Sign out one of these rooms for a quiet, fully equipped study space for hours at a time.
19. Media rooms
Once you're finished with your private study session, why not unwind with a movie theater experience? Media rooms can be signed out for a variety of purposes, whether it's to watch Jurassic Park on a screen 100 times the size of your laptop or to rehearse your upcoming class presentation.
20. Food discounts
You may not realize that your student card affords you discounts at restaurants and fast-food chains far beyond those on campus. Check online or with your student services office for a list of participating food vendors in your city.
21. Used bookstores
Most students are aware of used bookstores on campus, but not all bother to make the trip and sort through the somewhat scuffed-up shelves. Let me be clear: it's worth it. Why pay $130 for a new textbook when a gently used one will cost you only $60? At the end of the year, you can sell your books back to the bookstore. Granted, you'll probably only receive enough to buy a Grande latte, but still—cheap books and coffee? That's a deal most students would take any day.
PhD? Don't mind if I do . . .
If you're more than a month into your university experience, your mind, body, and wallet could probably use a break. Take advantage of the incredible resources available to you on campus, but be warned: perks this good might just persuade you to become a perpetual student.
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