I’ve worked at all different levels in Information Technology - from a low-level developer to a Director of Information Technology, which included making the hiring and firing decisions of those on my staff.
While there definitely are exceptions, I can tell you that certifications usually don’t make a lot of difference to those who are hiring. Virtually anyone can pass one of those certification tests with the right test-taking skills, and in my experience, very few of the employers that I worked for cared about certifications. When I did the hiring for my organization, a candidate’s list of certifications did not factor in at all.
Again - there are exceptions. If the specific job that you’re going after generally requires a certification, then, of course, do your best to obtain that piece of paper. Only you know the specifics of your chosen career field. But, don’t spend the time and money pursuing an IT certification thinking that it’ll automatically make a significant difference because that may not necessarily be the case. A certification doesn’t make up for a lack of experience.
There are SO many areas to IT that it’s tough to get too specific without knowing where your interests lie. It sounds like you’re going more the route of system administration. But almost regardless, experience is what counts the most - like almost any profession. Can you be more specific about what your ideal job would entail?
Usually a .edu email address is good enough for a student discount, but your mileage may vary depending on the organization administering the exam.