With the excitement about college acceptance letters that arrived last month comes the question: how can you pay for college? College costs are getting more and more expensive every year and families all over the country are having a hard time footing the bill.
College tuition isn’t getting any cheaper for parents to send their adolescents to college or for students to pay for themselves. Back in 1977, attending a private non-profit four-year institution would have cost roughly $16,760. Today, the price has jumped significantly to $45,370.
While the usual costs come to mind – tuition, fees, and room & board – there are many other expenses that you may encounter while at college. This includes textbooks, food, and money for activities.
Most parents can’t afford such a steep annual budget to send their youngsters to school. For more detailed information about college tuition costs, please refer to the excellent resources the College Board website has to offer.
Now that we have run through the potential scenarios during which college may take a hit on your wallet, let’s look at some ways you could potentially get some assistance without accruing debt.
1. Take AP (Advanced Placement), IB (International Baccalaureate), or college courses while in high school
Many high schools across the country offer students the chance to take these courses while in high school. These courses may be more challenging to take while maintaining other after school activities. Sometimes, schools only offer AP & IB courses to a group of students instead of the entire class. This is where college courses come into play, since community colleges don’t require a high school diploma to take some of their courses. Depending on how many credits a student can earn during high school, it may be enough to eliminate an entire semester during the first year of college, which will potentially save thousands of dollars. It also is beneficial to graduate ahead of schedule – you will enter the job market faster than your peers and have a larger pick of jobs.
2. Apply for a Scholarship
I worked my tail off in high school to earn a full athletic scholarship to college. My wife worked very hard and earned a partial academic scholarship for all 4 years as well. Parents who have children who are athletes need to understand that it’s very difficult getting a full scholarship to any college, whether the school is at the Division I, II, or III level. If an athletic scholarship isn’t something you are banking on, you can search for other scholarships. There are so many different scholarship programs out there to help students pay for college cost. One website I found to be very helpful was College Data, which is a scholarship finder that allows students to plug in their information to see what scholarships they may be potentially rewarded in based on their area of study.
3. Go to Community College First
I know a lot of students want to immediately attend a four year institution, but sometimes, attending your first two years at a community college can save you a lot of money. Some of my friends chose to take this route and ended up going to an excellent school the last two years to complete their bachelor’s degree. This may be an effective way to save a lot of money for the first two years of school.
4. Go to an In-State School
Attending an in-state school costs SO much less than a private institution. The acceptance rate is higher for in-state students as well. Go ahead, browse the US News Higher Education section now and you’ll quickly find that’s the case. If you live close enough to the school…
5. Think about Commuting
College is a time for making fun memories, but you can still have a great time when commuting from home. You can scrap the cost of room and board and gain the experience of crashing with your friends. Room and board costs on average cost around $10,000, so you’d be saving $40,000 a year. You can later use that money for a down payment on a house (build some equity!) or even buy a car!
6. Consider Living off Campus
It may cost a lot to live on campus for the convenience, but it may cost less to live with a group of people off campus in a house or apartment. You’ll still have a great time and save money too. Know anyone attending your school? Ask them for recommendations – there may be a spot in their house or they may know how to get you a good deal.
7. Get a Job
Many of my friends had to work their way through college, which was very difficult. I had the utmost respect for my classmates who pretty much had a full time job while attending college. Having a job requires excellent time management skills and a strong work ethic.
8. Utilize Employer Programs
Many employers across the country have educational benefits that may be offered to you while you’re working. Check with your employer to see if they provide any assistance. Did you know Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill both offer their employees educational benefits? Click on the links to learn more about these amazing companies who believe in the American dream!
9. Join the Military
We would like to use this opportunity to say to the men and women serving for our great nation here and abroad, THANK YOU for your service. After your service, you have 10 years to use all of your benefits such as college. A great website to learn more about your potential benefits from serving in the military please refer to the Military benefits page.
10. Join an Honors Program
Most colleges across the country have honors programs. Not all honors programs are the same but they do require in most cases the student to maintain a specific GPA (Grade Point Average) to stay within the program and get money off their tuition.
I hope that was helpful and please reach out with any questions. Let us know if you have any useful tips!