This post isn't on technology, but has some tips which I think may help people going (back) to "school", so I'm posting them here.
These tips apply to all students, but are particularly aimed at people going back to study full time as a mature student, who may not know about all these tips - you want a career change, you've lost your job and decide to retrain, whatever the reason, as a fulltime student there are some key things you can do to save money given that you'll be on a tight budget with fees to pay and living expenses etc (the main focus is on the UK especially London):
- Look out for general student discounts like (currently) Microsoft's student discounts on Windows and Office products (e.g. Windows 7 at £30 for UK students with valid ac.uk email addresses - but it's only until 11:59pm GMT on January 3rd, 2010 so grab a copy ASAP if you need it - see eligibility conditions). And similarly US students can get Windows 7 cheaply too.
- Apply for a council tax discount or exemption - if you live alone or only with other full time students, you could be exempt altogether; but if you live with others e.g. non-student flatmates or partner, you can still get a discount - check out your council's website for details and (often) a downloadable form. Find your local authority.
- (London) Apply for an 18+ student Oystercard. This gets you a very helpful 30% discount off a 7-day or longer travelcard for travel on the Tube, buses etc.
- Extra tip: the card generally lasts until mid October of the next year. Apply ASAP because the discount starts as soon as you get the card. Some colleges are helpful and will validate you with London Underground online from the beginning of September even before you've arrived at college in person; some make you go through lots of painful red tape before they add you to their system, even as late as October.
- If you get the card at the beginning of September, consider buying a travelcard for 2 weeks, then an annual one in mid-October to last you the rest of your year of eligibility. Prices usually go up around the beginning of the calendar year, so buying 1 year then 2 weeks the following year will be more expensive than 2 weeks + 1 year. Not much more, but everything counts.
- Get an NUS Extra card. You have to order it online, then collect it in person from your local student union (they'll email you when it's ready, takes a couple of weeks on average). It costs £10 but entitles you to discounts at participating retailers.
- A key one is Amazon, for (at the date of writing) a 5% discounts on books and certain other products up to a pretty decent cumulative total spend (but not on electronics unfortunately, though Apple, Philips, Comet offer a discount on those, and there's e.g. a 3 Mobile Broadband student offer).
- A discount on Staples or Ryman stationery supplies may come in handy too. And Superdrug, Body Shop, Pizza Hut, Moss Bros, Warehouse, Topshop, Miss Selfridge, JJB Sport, Joe Browns, Firetrap, cinema tickets at Odeon, Ticketmaster gig tickets etc - see the NUS Extra page for details of all discounts.
- (Added) Check with your college whether there are any special offers, e.g. many offer their students free or cheap anti-virus software to install on their own computers; cheap computer consumables; etc. You may have to hunt round your college website's student pages as they're not always obvious.