Ways to Cut College Costs

Are you eager to earn a college degree but afraid of all of the college costs that will come with it? If so, stop fretting. With a bit of planning, you can earn your college diploma without going into debt at all.

Overpriced paper
There's no question that a college degree is a worthwhile investment, but that doesn't make it an affordable one. For many, this leads to forgoing the dream of continued education entirely, and for others it leads to a towering collection of student loans and credit card debt.

Just how big of a problem is this? According to an article published by Money, two-thirds of students borrow money to pay for college, and a full 1 in 10 end up with loans totaling $35,000 or more. That doesn't have to happen to you.

Start early
If you're serious about graduating college without debt, it's important to start planning early. Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor (or your child's counselor if you are a parent), and discuss your plans. Let your counselor know what schools you are considering, what activities you participate in, how your grades are looking and any other information that you think is important.

Use this appointment to learn how to utilize scholarship information sources within the office. Is there a bulletin board that gets updated regularly? A computer database? A filing cabinet? Find out how scholarship information gets organized in your school's counseling office, and then put that information to work.

Research, research, research
Your counselor's office is a great source for information about scholarships and grants, but this is far from the only source. Talk to your parents to find out if there are scholarships offered through their employers. Check with your church, the leader of any group that you belong to and even your own employer. Then, when you think you've exhausted every source, check some more. Look online for even more listings, and be sure to explore every angle. Is there a scholarship for students with your surname? Do you have an unusual interest that could net you some money? Are there scholarships for people pursuing your discipline?

Keep a list of all of the scholarships that you're interested in applying for, and then develop a schedule for completing the applications before the deadline.

Consider your school choice caredfully
It can be tempting to go with your first-choice school and not look back; but this is often an expensive mistake. If you are committed to getting out of school without debt, you'll need to consider which school is offering the best deal. Take a look at the price of each school, but also consider the financial aid that each school is offering. Then determine which school will provide you with the best education at the best price.

Get a head start on your college career
To cut costs on your college education even further, consider taking college-level courses in your junior and senior years of high school. The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs offer high-school students a chance to earn college credit for work completed in high school. Take several of these courses and you could shave a semester or more off of your college experience. Now that's a real savings!

Work in college
Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs to their employees. Research the companies located around your chosen school and see if they have these programs. If you find one that does, set up an interview; and see if you can get yourself a job. A tuition reimbursement program could be worth thousands of dollars.

Graduate early
Most bachelor's programs are set up to take four years, but that doesn't mean you have to take that long. See if you can get credit for college work completed while you were in high school, try to test out of courses that you have a strong background in (think foreign languages, low-level math courses, freshman English) and consider taking summer school classes to speed up your program. If you're starting college later in life, you should also see if you can get credit for work or military experience.

Make it happen
College is expensive, but it doesn't have to leave you in debt. Vow to graduate without debt, and then put in the legwork to get there.

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