Navigating life at college can be overwhelming and stressful. Fortunately, there is a range of low cost to free campus resources to help you make the most of your college experience.
These services vary from school to school, but they typically include career coaching, health and wellness, tutoring help, disability services and more. In general, students underutilize these programs, even though they have so much to offer.
Read on to learn how you can take advantage of these 18 resources for college students, both free and low cost:
1. Academic advisors
2. Financial aid administrators
3. College career services
4. Health and mental wellness services
5. Crisis centers and hotlines
6. Public safety centers
7. Writing centers
8. Tutoring services
9. IT services
10. Library databases and services
11. Fitness and recreation services
12. Disability services
13. Computer labs
14. Dining services
15. Campus media
16. Child care services
17. Used bookstores
18. International student services
How to utilize these useful college resources
When you start college, your school may assign a professor to be your academic advisor. Your advisor can help you pick courses and explore potential majors.
Once you decide on a major, you could end up changing advisors to a professor in that department. The best advisors will help you set long-term goals and design a course of study that will allow you to reach them.
Getting to know your advisor allows you to benefit from their guidance and mentorship. They know your college inside and out, after all. They can potentially help you land a research position, develop a senior thesis or write you a strong recommendation letter, which can be useful when applying for graduate school or a job.
Paying for college these days is no easy feat, given the high cost of tuition. Most students fund their higher education with a combination of savings, grants, scholarships and student loans.
Your financial aid office can go over details of your financial aid award, as well as advise you on how much to borrow in student loans (if any). And if you run into dire straits, they might also be able to help you out with an emergency student loan.
Ultimately, your college degree should be a stepping stone to a fulfilling career or graduate program. While you might not know what you want to do after graduation — or might change your mind several times along the way — your career services office can help you clarify your goals and hone the skills you need to land a job after graduation.
Here’s a general idea of what they offer:
- Career exploration: Career services can help you explore various career paths and their starting salaries. They’ll also encourage you to define your professional goals and values to help narrow your search.
- Internship connections: Your college might have an insider network with the up and coming work-study and internship opportunities. They can help you apply during the school year or over the summer.
- Graduate school applications: If you want to take your education to the next level, they can help you research potential graduate school programs and prepare your application.
- Resume review: Having your professional resume reviewed will ensure you stand out against the competition. Career services will help you highlight your skills and experiences.
- Interview prep: You can brush up on your interview skills, such as going over what to wear, how to act, and how to answer common interview questions.
- Job recruitment: Career services can often help fast-track your job search, and they may have wide-reaching connections with businesses and colleagues.
- Mentorship: They may be able to connect you with a mentor to help guide you on your academic and professional journey. Sometimes it’s even worth shadowing a professional in your target field.
The stress of balancing classes, social activities and possibly a college job can take its toll. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many students experience physical and mental health challenges while in college, which can affect their general sense of well-being.
Fortunately, campuses often have a variety of college services to help you maintain your physical, mental and emotional health. These services are usually paid for in advance with your tuition and fees.
College health service centers, for instance, can provide medical care, including immunizations, medications and women’s health services. Health service centers or separate counseling centers also provide individual and group counseling to students, as well as other help coping with mental health issues.
While health services can help you deal with a sickness or injury, your college also probably has a crisis center for serious emergencies. If you’re dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out your school’s crisis center.
This vital college service can also support students who are dealing with drug addiction or who have been victims of sexual assault.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable walking across campus alone in the dark, reach out to your public safety office. Public safety centers or similar college services can provide a shuttle or escort to accompany you home and make sure you feel safe.
They often have well-defined protocols for emergency planning and risk management, and maybe even a safety app with emergency alerts.
Most college classes require some level of writing. If you’re struggling at any stage of the process, from brainstorming to final edits, you can head to your college’s writing center for expert assistance. A writing coach is ready to help you sharpen your writing skills and produce strong work.
They might even be able to help proofread your scholarship essay if you’re looking to apply to grad school.
Along with writing tutors, you can often find free tutoring services for other subjects. Some colleges even offer peer tutoring, where fellow classmates can earn college credit while helping you out.
So if you’re struggling to make it through calculus or biology, take advantage of the academic services on campus and find a tutor who can help support you as you make your way through the course.
Is your laptop suddenly freezing or refusing to turn on? You’re in luck — most colleges have an extensive IT services department with experts ready to fix any glitch. They should be able to tell you what’s wrong with your electronic device and, if possible, how to fix it.
Your college library isn’t just a quiet place to study and get work done, although it’s definitely good for that too. There’s a world of free resources all at your fingertips.
Most college libraries offer the following resources and services:
- Private study rooms
- Interlibrary loans
- Journal subscriptions
- Informational databases
If you’re not sure how to navigate these resources, reach out to a librarian for assistance. They’re usually more than happy to help.
Research has shown that exercise can help reduce stress levels by ramping up those feel-good endorphins. Plus, your college’s gym fees are sometimes covered by tuition. So if you’re already paying for it, why not use it?
The amenities can vary, but most campus recreation centers have cardio and weight equipment, as well as classes such as pilates to kickboxing. Other options may include a pool, sauna, or tennis courts, and even discounted weekend trips like hiking excursions.
A college’s disability department is devoted to providing equal accessibility for all their students. Typically, you need to officially register as a student with a disability, which is done through this department. From there, the staff can help accommodate your specific needs so you can enjoy the full experience of college life.
Every school offers a different level of support. In general, here are the most common:
- Connecting you with note-takers for all of your classes
- Creating audio recordings for your classes
- Granting permission to use a laptop during class
- Allowing you to take exams in a separate room to minimize distractions
Disability services may also provide Assistive Technology (AT), which are tools used to assist disabled individuals in completing everyday academic tasks. For example, reading assistance software can help students who are visually impaired keep up with their assignments.
Even if you own a laptop, there may come a time when you may need to access your campus’s computer lab — for example, if last night’s storm knocked out your power and you have a 15,000-word term paper due today.
Luckily campus computer labs tend to keep daily hours, offering a quiet sanctuary with high-quality printers, fast internet connection, extra paper and the latest software programs. It’s a great place to go in a pinch or for a change of scenery.
Studies have found that brain function, focus and alertness are all affected by what we eat. Because of this, it might be worth signing up for your college’s meal plan. Plans are often reasonably priced and offer three meals a day, seven days a week, with nutritious options at every serving.
Signing up in advance is a great way to encourage you to get in those balanced meals instead of relying on instant ramen noodles to get you through.
Furthermore, you might be able to use your meal plan card to score discounts from local restaurants and grocery stores.
Media rooms tend to offer a range of college resources for students, such as larger monitors, video cameras, video-editing software, microphones, green screens and more.
Sometimes they will even let you rent out the equipment, such as if you’re filming a documentary and need access to high-quality video cameras.
Going to school is hard work. But juggling school while raising kids — now that’s quite a feat.
Unfortunately, not every campus has a child care center. But if they do, you may be able to get quality child care at a significantly lower rate. In fact, certain college day care centers might save you around 50% in comparison to a local daycare.
There is also the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which offers child care grants for low-income parents in postsecondary education.
If you’re in need of reliable child care and your college doesn’t have an on-campus center, it’s worth checking if they have a child care referral program — which could get you a decent discount off local day care centers.
You can also check out these other ways for parents to get inexpensive child care while in college.
If your campus has a used bookstore, it’s worth checking it out. You can usually score discounted prices on your required textbooks, along with any additional reading requirements.
Then, once the semester is over, you can potentially sell your books back to the same bookstore. Or consider these other options for selling textbooks.
You won’t earn much, but every dollar makes a difference when chipping away at your overall student loan debt.
Finally, international students can take advantage of the international student services office, if your school has one. Not only can this office help you through the visa process, but it will also provide services for your academic and personal well-being, like English language learning support or filing taxes. Many offices also hold events and workshops so you can meet other international students or find a mentor.
Also, it could be worth purchasing an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which verifies your student status and allows you to save while at home and abroad. Basically this card gives you access to over 150,000 student specials and discounts in approximately 130 participating countries and territories. Depending on your country, it costs between $5 to $25.
While college is an enriching and exciting time, it can also be incredibly challenging. Fortunately, your tuition and fees don’t just go toward classes — they also open the door to free or low-cost academic, health and wellness, financial and other resources.
Whether you want to speak with someone about planning your career or preparing to pay back student loans, it’s worth taking advantage of these college services. You can truly make the most of your school years by pursuing the support you need.