How to Hack your way through College

by The Beacon Staff

Money, money, money. In college, no one seems to have enough of it. Luckily, people find ways to get around that. We put our heads together and came up with ways anyone could get through life on a tight budget. From saving money on gas, budgeting, or reusing those everyday household items, we got you covered.


Sometimes there are things in your attic or basement that just collect dust. Go through some of that stuff and see if it can be reused in some way! There’s got to be at least one box of old clothes. See what’s worth upcycling with a little help from YouTube tutorials and an open-mind.

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Courtesy of Lauren Ruby

Another thing to not throw out: candles. Once they are burnt out, clean the leftover wax out with hot water and dish soap. Perfect for holding q-tips, cotton balls, pens/pencils, pretty much anything you can find that fits. 

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Courtesy of Lauren Ruby

Keep a couple water bottles and use it for holding bracelets or hair ties. You could even fill them with rocks or seashells for decorations, though you may be better off with glass bottles in that case. Hang on to tissue boxes as well. Those are great to store trash bags or plastic bags with quick access.


The first and foremost thing you can do to make college affordable is to file your FAFSA. If you are a resident of the state of maine living near the federal poverty level, you will automatically qualify for a Maine State Grant. The maximum amount for this award is $1,500. Your expected family income must not exceed $5,800. To be considered for a Maine State Grant, you must file your FAFSA by May 1st, 2020. For more information on this grant, see the FAME Maine website. You can also use the FAME maine scholarship search engine to look for more opportunities. 

What if you don’t get any of that sweet grant or scholarship money? The next best thing that you can do is to take out your federal loan money. Try to take out your subsidized loan money first, but the unsubsidized loans you will qualify will have a fixed 4% interest rate.

 Do not take out private loans, trust me, just don’t. Loans can be scary, but federal loans are not scary. You have to neglect to pay your federal loans for a whole year before you can default and negatively affect your credit, and you’re not going to get a better interest rate on a loan than 4%. Fear private loans, do not fear federal loans.

 Another great resource is IGRAD. IGRAD is a financial literacy platform available to you for free as an SMCC student. They aim to empower students to succeed by helping them effectively manage their money, limit and repay their debts. They provide customized support for student’s unique financial situations. 

Apply for SMCC foundation scholarships. With one application you will be considered for 75 different scholarships. The application due date for this year has passed. Applications for SMCC foundation scholarships are usually due around the first week of school. For more information, call 207-741-5559 or email foundation@smccME.edu

But what if you need money right now? Are you having a financial emergency that might affect your ability to stay in school? SMCC has a President’s emergency fund that you can apply to borrow from. To find more information about this, go to mysmcc my money. 

The Maine Community Foundation is another great resource for local scholarships. One in particular that can be found on their website aims to support immigrants, refugees and asylum-seeking students through Portland Adult Education. For more information about this scholarship, contact friendsofpae@gmail.com

And lastly, Is your GPA 3.84 or above? You should look into the Jack Cook-Kent undergraduate transfer Scholarship. It is a renewable scholarship that awards community college students with up to $40,000 to continue their education at a 4 year school. 

You can pursue any field of study with this scholarship, and it is understandably competitive, but if you think you qualify you should apply. The deadline for this year has closed. Next fall 2021 applications will be due in November. For more information contact scholarships@jkcf.org.

For more tips on saving money in regards to transportation, check out a great article on page ******* called “Alternatives to Parking.” If you have your own hacks that keep more change in your pockets, let us know! Email how you save money to celinamsimmons@smccme.edu.

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