Navigating College as a Low-income Student

Low-income College Student

This guide is intended for low-income students who are trying to save up some money while at college and who find on-campus employment funds insufficient.

The guide below is entirely based on personal experiences and may not apply to all other schools. It is by no means exhaustive, and I will continue to update this guide in the future.

1. Cut your own hair: Haircut costs $20-30 dollars. If you normally need a haircut every three months, cutting your own hair would save about $100 anually. This piece of advice literally saves you the least amount of money, but I'm pretty proud of it so I'm putting it first. Here is a picture of me with my DYI haircut (after 3 disastrous tries).

Jason Ngo's Haircut

2. Get off the full meal plan: Full meal plan at Haverford costs around $3,800 semester, which amounts to $7,600 per year. If you opt out of the full meal plan and cook food for yourself, you can save up to anywhere between $2,000 - $5,500.

It is important to note that there are many occasions when you can get free meals: eHaus dinners, Quaker brunches, OAR snacks, and a lot of other departments and student groups that host meals weekly or biweekly.

3. Look out for free stuff: At the end of each year, there will be a massive sale of used stuff such as textbooks, hair-dryers, mini-fridges. Furthermore, the Office of Academic Resources (OAR) have a lot of free pens to take, so don't buy for stationary. Additionally, printing is free at Haverford; you can always print graph paper or staff paper, so don't buy them. Finally, remember to take only the things that you need! By looking for free/used stuff, you can save up to $300 or more.

4. Leverage the school's resources: Haverford launched an initiative called Low-Income and First-in-the-family Assitance Resources (LIFTFAR) that supports students with high need. If you need extra funds for food over breaks when the Dining Center is not in session, or if you need funds to pay other expensive government fees (passport fees, visa fees or OPT fees), let the office know. They are always willing to help!

5. Build a close network of friends: I would not have made it through my first two years in college without the support that my friends provide. They are there for me when I tell them my financial struggle. They are happy for me when I tell them the school is refunding me the scholarship taxes paid. I, as a low-income student, am thankful for my friends.