Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On-Campus Overview: Top 5 On-Campus Freebies

Because this blog is written by a college student and is read by college students, of course I will be writing about finding ways to stretch your money while on a college campus! Colleges are chock-full of resources (as they should be - your tuition money is paying for them!) but without knowing what resources are available or how to access them, college can seem really daunting and really, really expensive. Here is a short list of some good ways to take full advantage of the services you paid for with your tuition. I'll go into detail about these, and other ideas, in future entries!

1. Paid research studies. These are especially relevant if you are at a big research school, like me ( I attend Indiana University.) At any given moment there are thousands of graduate students and departments conducting research into any number of topics, and many of these studies need participation from students. Some of these studies have required participation by certain classes, but some of them are PAID! Not only can you get extra cash (usually somewhere around $9/hr), but by participating in experiments, you can help graduate students and professors with their research.
How do you find these paid surveys? Two ways. First, search online for "[Your School] paid experiments." You should be able to find a link to a site with a list of experiments that are offering monetary compensation.
The second way is to head to your school's main research department building (I recommend stopping in Psychology first) and look around at the bulletin boards for postings of paid experiments. Typically they will list the qualifications needed with information to sign up for the study. Also check on other popular bulletin boards on campus, and even in your school's online classifieds listings.

2. Free Schwag! I am all about the freebies. Walking around on campus, you can score anything from free t-shirts, free food (call-out meetings and awareness raising booths are great for free food!), free pens and pencils (usually you have to check out an office or two to find these), free bags, cups, post-its, and water bottles, (best place to find these is at a career fair), free plastic silverware (dining hall), free sugar and creamer packets (coffee kiosk), free thumb drives (I.T events) and so on and so forth. I'll talk about the best freebie finds on my campus and give some tips for finding your own in future entries.

3. Free lectures, concerts, and other hosted events. I know I'm going to sound like your mom but - DO take advantage of all the events hosted by your college! Or at least, as many as you can. Colleges can pay for musical artists, speakers and seminars that are highly in demand. Some of the musical acts I got to see 100% for free thanks to my school include Girl Talk and M.I.A. Some of the best lectures I have seen free - relevant to my major, of course - were from executives such as VP of Kohl's, JC-Penney, Target. We've had designers who run their own companies, the inventor of trend forecasting, and other really important people in the Fashion industry come and speak, completely for free. It's a great way to get some inspiration and tips about your career and even network! Some other hosted events that I.U has fairly regularly are runway shows, drag shows, festivals about anything from Harry Potter to Nutella (festivals are an amazing source of free food AND entertainment), movie screenings, and on and on. The amount of free things to do on a college campus are endless. Take advantage of everything you possibly can. More on how to find these events to come!

3. Free computer software Indiana University offers thousands of dollars in free software to its students (including Microsoft Office and Adobe CS5!) but even if your school isn't as generous as mine, you can access free software from a variety of computers on campus. Check out your school's library, which should be updated with the best software available. This is especially helpful if your major has anything at all to do with design because most schools will have at least one version of CS5 somewhere on campus, and the program suite costs hundreds of dollars on its own. On a more general level, you'll always have access to Microsoft Office even if you have a MAC or don't want to pay the ridiculous price to install it. (You could even get by without owning a computer in college, but I wouldn't recommend it.)

4. Free books, articles, and other publications. I know, I know, this one is totally boring. And it might not help you much now, but in the future - especially as an upperclassman looking for trade publications or writing research papers - this is a HUGE bonus. Most university libraries pay for access to a ginormous database of publications - everywhere from magazines or trade journals like Woman's Wear Daily, to newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, to published books and articles are yours to access entirely for FREE. Indiana University's library even has a partnership with a training and education website chock-full of how-to videos for everything under the sun, so you can learn new skills without needing to take a whole course. Being able to pick up or access the Wall Street Journal online may not seem useful as a freshman, but you'd be surprised how useful it might be later on!

5. Free career advice and help. Most universities have a Career Development Center on campus to help you with everything from writing your resume to searching for internships and jobs. Career Development Centers are amazing resources: come to them with questions like how to format a thank-you letter to an interviewer, whether or not to change the font on your resume, how to introduce yourself at a career fair, how to handle office politics, and even how to get in contact with alumni in positions that you are interested in to network with them and ask them questions. If you are considering looking for a job or internship, start at your CDC first. This kind of resource is really only available for free in college campuses - no one will hold your hand as you search for a job once you're out in the real world, so good luck getting anyone who is well-qualified to sit down and go over your resume with you in the future! Take advantage of your college's career advice NOW, well before your graduate.

A couple more obvious campus freebies that are worth mentioning are free books/movies/cds from your library, free access to a gym (and in some cases, free gym classes, which are a godsend if like me you are lazy without a group of 20 people all doing the same strenuous activity), free art galleries and museums, and free TV in dorm lounges. Some places, like the dorm I live in, offer free rentals of items ranging from DSLR cameras to canoes. If you really dig into what your college has to offer, you can save yourself a lot of money!

Do you have any on-campus freebie recommendations not listed here? Let me know!

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