Cut College Costs with These Practical Tips

College is a costly but often necessary expense in order to succeed in life. Unfortunately, the cost seems to keep rising. Here are some ways to reduce the tuition and other expenses that go along with it.

Save early with educational savings

Starting to save early always has advantages, and this is especially true with educational savings. With 529 Savings Plans, Coverdale Savings Accounts and the like, tax and other special advantages are there to exploit.

Start with college applications

As application fees can add up quickly, look into fee waivers and other tricks to limit costs. Go to save money on college applications to make sure you do not pay a penny more than necessary.

Combine bachelor’s and master’s degrees
Instead of spending four years on a bachelor’s degree and then an additional two years for a master’s degree, look for programs that allow you to study for both at the same time. You can likely finish both degrees in five years. This will shave a year off your studies, which can be big bucks!

Consider online education

As a general rule, online education is cheaper and saves on transportation and other costs. Look into it if it may be an option for you.

College Cost

Study abroad

Surprisingly, sometimes studying abroad is actually cheaper, and it offers an efficient way to learn languages, not to mention gain experiences money cannot buy. One way studying abroad can be lower than at home is by selecting the right country. For example, some European countries do not charge students tuition. If you know the language, sometimes you can apply directly to the foreign college and save. With the right research, special scholarships for studying abroad can often be found. Start by looking here and at your own college.

Know your options with textbooks

From renting and exchanges to free digital books, there are a number of ways you can keep book costs down covered in save on textbooks.

Go to an in-state college

A public university in your state of residence can cost significantly less than a school further away. This is because you have to pay out-of-state tuition, which can increase your tuition bill by tens of thousands of dollars. Many employers don’t really care what college you attended anyway, especially for jobs in which employees are high in demand.

Choose a major and stick with it

Choose you major carefully before you pick out those first few courses. Changing majors or schools in the middle of your college career will impact you financially. You may have to take extra courses or even start all over.

Joint high school/college enrollment

Some community colleges allow high school students to take courses. This allows students to get some classes out of the way and save money at the same time, since community colleges are significantly less expensive than universities.

Community colleges

Along the same lines, attend a community college for the first two years. You can attend most community colleges for under $50 a unit, compared to several hundred dollars or more per unit at universities and private schools. In addition, you save on living costs by being able to live with your parents and commute to school.

Go the scholarship route

Even if you aren’t academically gifted or the school’s star athlete, there are many scholarships available for students with specific talents or qualities, such as for those who enjoy music, have strong leadership skills or enjoy helping others. There are many small scholarships that are available locally. Check your library for information about local scholarships. Many companies and organizations offer them as well, so check with your parents’ employers and see what they offer.

Apply for financial aid

Even if you think you may not qualify for financial aid, it doesn’t hurt to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) anyway. It can be done online and requires just a few hours of your time. There are many factors that can influence a decision, including having another child already in college. You may be able to qualify for grants, loans and student work programs to help you earn money toward college.

Don’t load up on expensive school supplies

Remember, you’re not in high school anymore, so you don’t need to impress anyone with your cool binder or highlighters in all different colors. Shop smart and get just the bare necessities. Cheap folders, notebooks and basic pens and pencils will often do. If your teachers require any additional supplies, they will let you know.

Use your student ID card

Do not leave home without your student ID. It can often score you discounts – even free times and meals – at local businesses.

Review a breakdown of your tuition

Ask the admissions department how your tuition fee is broken down. Are you paying for services you don’t use? Most likely, yes. Some universities add various fees into the tuition, such as parking permits, bus passes, health insurance and food costs. If you don’t use any of these services, speak up and opt out.

Take a challenge exam

You can use your work or life experience to earn college credits by taking a challenge exam. For example, if you are studying to be a nurse and one of the classes involves a subject matter that you already learned through a part-time job, you can take a challenge exam. If you are studying English and degree requires a Microsoft Word class – and you’ve been using the program for the past five years – you can take a challenge exam. The exam is typically a multiple-choice test of 100 questions. A modest fee – generally no more than $50 or $100 – is required to take the test. However, if you pass, you don’t have to take the course.

Take a year off

You don’t necessarily have to go straight from high school into college. Many people take a year off to explore their options. They may travel or discover a new interest. They may even work full time to save up money for college. During this time, you can figure out what you really want to study in college instead of simply wasting time taking random classes.

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