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Finding the Best Student Discounts in Chicago

By Marlie Comella and Leo Bartyzel

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2019

Successfully managing a student budget is an important factor often overlooked by many embarking on their path to a higher education.

According to Collegeboard.org, the average budget for a student attending an in-state, public four-year institution is about $26,000, of which only about $2,000 goes toward “other expenses” such as food and entertainment. For out-of-state institutions, the budget nearly doubles, while the “other expenses” remains exactly the same.

According to financial behaviorist Syble Solomon, “students need to think through the ‘what if’ questions and be prepared for situations when they will spend money without thinking.”

Alexis Jagla, a freshman and nursing major at Harper Community College, plans to transfer to a university in Chicago once she gets her associates degree. She has already heard of a few places where she is able to get a student discount and has even gotten discounts with her student ID at select movie theaters, restaurants, and stores.

Once she transfers to a university in the city she plans to find more places that offer student deals near her school. We hope to be able to help students discover more places where their school ID can save them some bucks!

Lisa Nguyen, a senior at North Park University, lives at home and enjoys the downtown nightlife. Even living at home, she often finds that bar tabs and the cost of entertainment can quickly add up. She also works part-time as a nurses assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

She told me that finding good deals throughout the city is always a plus because she can use money that she saved to pay for other necessary expenses. Besides doing her own research, she often finds that information about the best deals in town are on her social media pages. 

Part of attending a Chicago university is understanding some of the excessive costs associated with everything from shopping and eating to concerts and nightlife. For that reason, we compiled a list of our favorite places that students can visit to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer while maintaining a reasonable budget.

Fatpour Tap Works

This bi-level brewpub in Chicago’s spirited Wicker Park neighborhood is perfect for students looking for a fun environment to eat and drink while still staying under budget. Offering daily food and drink specials, this spot solidifies its place as a favorite for enjoying the game or meeting up with friends. It features more than 200 beers on tap and a full menu of pub style food. You can find the list of daily specials Fatpour Tap.

For those that are all about earning rewards for free stuff, you can join the Big Onion Tavern Group rewards program, for more info or to sign up.


2005 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622

M-Thurs: 5 p.m.-2 a.m.

F: 2 p.m.-2 a.m.

S-Sun: 10 a.m.-2 a.m. 

Steppenwolf Theatre

With a rich history of productions starting back in 1975, Steppenwolf Theatre has been providing Chicago with shows full of innovation. In March, the company broke ground on a new $54 million theatre in Lincoln Park. Catching a quality show can provide an entertaining experience any night of the week.

Students can enjoy $15 tickets which can be purchased online or at the box office starting one hour before the show (subject to availability).  Another great way for students to see live theatre is to visit on University Nights. These nights include food/drinks, a conversation with the artists from the show, and a behind the scenes look into the world of Steppenwolf Theatre. Find more information on student discounts and a list of available shows.


1650 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, 60614

Blue Man Group

 No other show quite matches the level of musical, artistic, and comedic expression quite like the Blue Man Group. The show features a multi-sensory experience combined with theater to provide the audience with an experience unlike any other. Shows run almost daily and tickets can be purchased for $35 dollars at the box office for day of shows with a student ID. Find dates and show times.


Briar Street Theater

3133 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

Shedd Aquarium

 Chicago is home to one of the best aquariums in the world. With hundreds of different fish and aquatic animals, Chicago residents and visitors can enjoy this fun aquarium and students can get $3 off regular priced tickets with their student ID (excludes Illinois Free Resident Days).


1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605

Art Institute Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago displays more than hundreds of famous art pieces from around the world. This historical institute is a popular landmark for people to visit and they offer free admission to Illinois residents on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and have a discounted price of $14 for Chicago resident students. They even offer a discounted membership rate for students!


111 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

White Sox Games

Looking for a fun night out and want to watch a ball game? The Chicago White Sox offers discounted tickets to all college students on select games. Check out the schedule on the White Sox website to see when you can catch a discounted game.  


333 W 35th Street, Chicago, IL, 60616 

Another great way to find more information about events going on in the city is by following Do312. This is an app that tells you what fun things are going on in Chicago and also gives you deals.

Katie Karpowicz, the media company’s content manager, talked about the role they play in promoting events to everyone in the Chicagoland area. In connection to the larger topic on finding deals, the original company even came about from the founders lack of having a great source for finding happy hour specials. 

“As a lot of young folks do, they wanted to be drinking at the cheapest place, places they could afford,” Karpowicz said of the founder’s intention behind creating Do512, the predecessor to Do312 and the rest of the DoStuff network. 

Karpowicz also mentioned her ties to the company before becoming part of the team in 2015. “We actually did Do312 launch the year I was 21 and still in school, I’ve been with it since then. It was great as a tool because I knew someone was behind the screen telling me the cool places to hangout.”

 Having a tool loaded with information about venues, events, and most importantly, drink deals is one way students can manage their budgets while still making the most of going out.

Finding many places in Chicago that offer student discounts can be easy with the help of online resources such as websites and apps like Do312. Also with the help of our top picks of places around the Chicagoland area that offer discounts, you are guaranteed to have a fun experience without spending a lot of money.

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