The price tag for a college education can be substantial. Some families spend hours trying to determine how to pay for tuition, room and board and other college expenses. They are so focused on how to cover the costs that they fail to consider ways to reduce the costs. With proper planning and determination, you can pay less for college without lessening the value of your education. Here are some suggestions to help reduce the cost of college.
Get good grades in high school. The higher your grade point average (GPA), the better your chances of securing scholarships or financial assistance. Many colleges offer tuition assistance that is GPA-based.
Do well on the SAT. National merit scholarships are awarded to those students who score the highest on the SAT their junior year. Take practice PSAT exams as a freshman and sophomore to improve your skills for the junior year test.
Prep for your SAT tests. Don’t underestimate the value of high SAT scores. Some colleges offer automatic scholarships or reduced tuition to students achieving SAT scores above a certain breakpoint. It might be worth your financial while to spend money on SAT tutoring classes in high school in order to save on college tuition.
Sign up for college-level classes in high school. Taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school can help you earn college credits if you do well on the College Board exams. Students who score high on several AP tests can start college with one semester (12-15 credit hours) already under their belt. By “testing out” of general education classes, you’ll be free to pursue more classes toward your major.
Consider taking a few CLEP exams. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams offer students the opportunity to show proficiency in more than 30 subject areas. Do well enough on a CLEP exam and you can save money on tuition. Thousands of colleges give credit or advanced standing to students who pass CLEP exams.
Take a full course load in college. This will let you reap the full benefit of your tuition expense. Many colleges charge full-time students a flat tuition rate per semester; taking 18 credit hours won’t cost any more than 12 credit hours. Enroll in as many classes as your academic and study skills permit.
Pick your major as soon as possible. Deciding on a major early in your college career will keep your tuition bill low. You won’t end up wasting tuition money on classes that don’t count toward your major. Changing your major usually requires you to take more classes and may well extend your college years.
Get a job that provides tuition assistance. This is a great option for students who want to take a year or two off before college or those who plan to work part-time while going to school. Seek employment with an agency or business that offers tuition reimbursement as a job perk.
Comparison shop for college. You’d be surprised how many colleges are out there, and the prices vary. Make total cost a top priority for you when looking for schools, but don’t sacrifice other important factors, like degree programs and academic quality. Find an affordable school that still has the program(s) you need.
Start at a less-expensive school. Classes at a community college can cost half of what a four-year college charges. Spend your first two years at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college. You’ll end up with the degree from the four-year college, at much lower expense. Many four-year colleges offer automatic admissions and scholarships to community college students who transfer in.
Consider in-state universities. Private universities cost more than public universities, and out-of-state tuition is more expensive than in-state tuition. Many state universities offer specialized educational programs that are equal in rigor and prestige to those of a private university.
Go to summer school. You can finish college early by taking general education requirements during the summer. Sign up for classes at a local community college, where credit hours cost less. Just make certain the credits will transfer.
Bunk with relatives. Room and board expenses can equal the cost of tuition at many universities. Live at home the first year or two and commute to college. If you plan to attend a college located near the home of a relative or family friend, ask if they might consider offering you inexpensive lodging.
Attend a college where you’re a top-tier student. Check with your high school guidance counselor or career office for colleges that would value having you as a student. If your SAT scores are at the top of those accepted to the college, the school is more likely to offer you scholarships or other financial assistance.
Purchase used books. Make sure to check for texts that have been slightly used as they will be significantly cheaper than a brand new textbook. You may also want to consider selling your textbooks back after the semester is over if you will not need them for reference.
Consider the military. If military service is of interest, seek an appointment to one of the U.S. military academies. You’ll receive an excellent education courtesy of the federal government, as long as you fulfill your military obligation. You might also consider college-based ROTC programs that offer merit-based scholarships. If you are already enrolled in the military and contribute to your education fund through the G.I. Bill, this is also a great way to save up for a college education.
Seek out a work-study or co-op program. Many colleges have work-study or co-op programs that pay you to work for the college. These programs fill up fast, however, so visit the work-study office when you first arrive on campus to check out opportunities.
If you have trouble building a college education fund, seek help from a reputable credit counseling agency. Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions’ certified counselors who can work with you to assess your situation and put together a budget plan to help you achieve your educational goals. Learn more about our free credit counseling.