Decided to go to College?
Welcome to one of the most exciting times in your education! In college, you get to choose your classes and schedule, meet new people, engage in a new atmosphere, and work towards your career in the process. However, in a time where college tuition costs are ever rising, the cost of college can be a burden on students everywhere.
If you’re someone who is going to college - whether you’re a first-timer or returning - we have 5 awesome tips for you on how to pay less for college.
1. Take as Many Dual-Enrollment and AP Classes in High School as You Can
This tip may not apply to some college returners, but if you’re still in high school, this is definitely something to take advantage of! If your school offers any AP or Dual Enrollment courses, try to sign up for and take as many as you can.
High school AP courses are short for Advanced Placement courses. Most of them are as challenging as introductory college courses, but they are offered in high schools. They’re a great way to give your GPA a boost and make your college applications look better. But most importantly, AP classes help you prepare for the corresponding AP tests. Taking AP tests and getting high scores can give you a chance to earn college credits without paying tuition!
Dual Enrollment courses are also offered at a lot of high schools. Dual Enrollment courses allow high school students to earn actual college credit while still in high school, at a very discounted or even free rate. Again - no tuition! Like AP courses, Dual Enrollment courses are on on the same level of difficulty as college courses. They help you earn college credit at a lower or free rate and help prepare you more for the pace of college coursework!
2. Start Your College Career at a Community College or 2-Year Institution
This tip can work for anyone who wants to go to college, whether straight out of high school or a little later on.
Many students choose to start their college career at a community college, junior college or 2-year institution to save money and then transfer to a 4-year institution to finish their degree. Community colleges offer what is called an Associate’s Degree which you can obtain in two years and then transfer to a 4-year institution of your choice.
According to the College Board, in 2014-2015, in-state community college tuition was just $3,347 on average - thousands less than in-state tuition at most 4-year universities. Depending on where you live, the cost may be even lower.
Additionally, community colleges have been sometimes known to be more accommodating to students who need to work throughout school by offering more night classes and less-popular class times. Classes are typically smaller too, so you can get a good personal learning experience. Just make sure to check your transfer opportunities before making a choice on your school.
Smaller class sizes, easy transfer options, flexible schedules, and cheaper tuition? What’s not to love?
3. Complete Your FAFSA (Early!)
When it comes to methods of paying for school, FAFSA is undoubtedly where most students turn. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The FAFSA is free, easy to access, and uses your personal and financial information to connect you with scholarship, grant and loan offers to help you pay for school.
You should complete your FAFSA as early as possible if you are planning on applying for financial aid for school. Some colleges are first-come, first-serve when it comes to awarding financial aid. You’ll also get your Student Aid Report back more quickly the earlier you submit your application. That way, you know what to plan for!
For an in-depth guide on completing your FAFSA, check out our post How to Complete Your FAFSA Form in 7 Easy Steps.
4. Research and Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Typically, in order to apply for most scholarships and grants, you need to have a FAFSA on file for that year to show you are eligible for aid. So, if you follow step 3, this will be a lot easier!
Completing a FAFSA will show you all the aid you are eligible for federally, but there are other scholarships and grants to be found.
Here are some of the best places to find them:
- Your college or school
- Your college or school most likely offers scholarships and grants through the institution itself. Check your school’s website and find the page for scholarships, grants, or financial aid to find out what scholarships and grants are available and how to apply for them. Remember: the earlier the better!
- Fastweb.com is a website that takes some of your personal information and education goals to match you with scholarships, grants, other financial aid, and even colleges that are tailored to you. Creating a profile with fastweb is an easy and fast way to find exactly what you’re looking for, and to find good resources you may not even have known existed.
- Collegeboard.org is one of the biggest college resource websites for students. Collegeboard offers much more than just scholarship and grant resources, but they connect students to almost $6 billion in financial aid opportunities! Collegeboard’s scholarship search engine is your first step in getting in on those financial aid opportunities.
- Unigo provides about 3.6 million scholarship opportunities that have totaled to around $14 billion in financial aid awards! Unigo connects students with scholarship and grant opportunities from tons of different categories, including Academic Scholarships, Athletic Scholarships, Minority Scholarships, and many more.
For more sources, check out this article by edsmart.gov.
5. See If You Qualify for a Tuition-Free Program or College!
Say what? Tuition-free? That sounds too good to be true, right? Surprisingly, it isn’t! There are actually schools throughout the country that offer free tuition. However, there can be some tedious requirements you will want to make sure you can meet. Some requirements may be that you need to come from a certain state, come from a low-income or income-specific background, or pay dues to the school by working there during school or after you graduate.
Tuition-free schools may have another catch, which is that while tuition is free, room and board aren’t. So, it may be unrealistic to have expectations of going to school completely for free. A better way to think of it is as a big, big discount.
Here are some schools that offer tuition-free programs:
- Berea College in Berea, Kentucky
- Berea College is a Christian college that offers free education to its students in exchange for around $1,000 per student to cover costs like meals and housing. Other than that, earning an education at Berea College is free! Learn more about Berea College here.
- Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky
- Alice Lloyd college is for anyone that lives within Alice Lloyd’s “service area,” which is approximately 108 counties through 5 states: West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, and of course, Kentucky. Alice Lloyd College offers Bachelor’s Degrees in a number of fields such as business, medicine, humanities, and education among others. Check out more about Alice Lloyd College here!
- City College of San Francisco in San Francisco, California
- City College of San Francisco is of interest for anyone who is a resident of San Francisco. It is a 2-year college that provides students with Associate’s Degrees and transferable credits to then go to a 4-year institution. The best part? With a partnership with the city of San Francisco, City College of San Francisco is completely free. Read more about City College of San Francisco at their website.
- Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina
- Warren Wilson College is a small campus boasting about 680 students. It offers free tuition to residents of North Carolina who qualify for financial aid. One grant Warren Wilson College provides to students is a work-grant that allows students to work on campus and throughout community areas in exchange for free tuition. You can learn more about Warren Wilson College here.
There Are Tons of Different Ways to Pay for School!
Tuition costs may be rising, but luckily there are a lot of available resources to pay for school. The resources available are there for any student; with billions of dollars in aid available each year, students are more than likely to find financial aid that they qualify for.
If you want to pay less for school, remember these 5 tips:
- Take Dual-Enrollment and AP Courses in High School
- Start at a Community College or Two-Year College
- Complete Your FAFSA as Early as Possible
- Apply for Scholarships and Grants
- See If You Qualify for Free Tuition
With these tips you can feel ready to get out there, find your resources, and get that education (for less money)!