Surviving School: Week 2 -- How Did It Get So Complicated?


I am such an idiot.

After spending hours and hours searching for the cheapest textbooks online, waiting days in anticipation for them to show up and hesitantly purchasing the odd expensive textbook from bookstores, I’ve just learned that I could have got them for free.

Well, sort of.

In my last blog, I talked about accessing your textbooks at the library as a way of saving money. I normally practice what I preach, but this semester I’m taking courses at two different schools and working two different jobs. That means reading while commuting and no time to study in a library. Besides, when I did a library search at the school where I need most of my textbooks, they were either the old edition or you couldn't take them out.

I don't know why I didn't do it sooner, but I recently looked up those same textbooks at the library of the other school I'm attending, the school where I landed a job for September. It turns out this library has the books I needed, even though they’re not used as textbooks for any classes this term. It also turns out that as “staff” I’m entitled to take these textbooks out on loan for a whole semester!

Not only am I getting a union wage for my temporary job (seriously, the pay is decent for service work), I basically get free textbooks. The problem is I didn't find that out until I bought my textbooks!

So, a word of advice to all you “starving” students out there. All schools have a cafeteria, bookstore, etc. Land a part-time job there and, in essence, you’ll get back the money you've shelled out for tuition. If your school has the same policy as mine, you can then enjoy the perks of being staff -- but you may need to seek these out yourself, such as being able to borrow textbooks all semester.

Another thing threw me this week. I was double-charged for my tuition.

Turns out that my “main” school (the one where I take most of my courses) arranged for my tuition to be paid directly from the government student loan office on the first day of school. But they also sent me an email last month that my tuition was due by a certain date and if I didn't pay, I would lose my courses.

I did pay – and they also got paid by the student loan office. Now I have to wait until next month to get my credit card payment back. I doubt the school will pay me interest.

After making a few phone calls about this, I found out that because I informed the school that I was getting a student loan, they made their direct payment arrangement. I’ve never heard of this before and was told that it's only done by some schools.

To make matters worse, I also have to reapply for another student loan for the next (winter) semester. Turns out that my main school has some say in how many semesters students get a loan for – and they require us to apply each semester instead of applying for the school year. Again, only some schools do this.

Yet according to the BC student loan office, I could have obtained a loan for the whole school year if I had filled out a paper application instead of an online one.

Aside from the confusion of different rules, depending on which school you attend and whether you apply on paper, I don’t see the point in having to apply for a new loan every semester. Obviously if I need a loan for the fall semester, I’m going to need one to complete the school year. It's not like I’ll have a few months in between, like in the summer, to make enough money that I wouldn't need another loan.

I never had these problems when I went to school last time. How did it get this complicated in just a few years?

Anyway, now I know that you need to make sure your current student loan is for two semesters (if applicable), or maybe try paper applications. You also need to find out if your school will get your tuition payment directly from the student loan office.

One last insight from this week…

We’re only in our second week of school (and man, am I already stressed out), but there’s a major deadline looming.

At the main school I’m attending, bursary and scholarship applications must be submitted by the end of September. That doesn’t leave me much time.

Bursaries and scholarships are literally free money, so even though you might think you don't have the grades or whatever to win one, it doesn't hurt to throw your name in. If you do volunteer work, be sure to note that and get a letter proving it, as this will increase your chances.

I hope to complete my own applications next weekend, so I might have more to say about that later on.


© Christopher Sun, 2009-2012