There’s nothing worse than finding out that your dream school is way too pricey for your budget. In fact, studies have shown that around 60% of students every year eliminate one or more of their college choices based on price alone. But if you know what you’re doing, the sticker price of college tuition can be lowered—sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars—so not only can you make your dream a reality; you also don’t have to graduate with an empty wallet.
1. Dig into financial aid: We’ve all heard the term, but countless students associate it with an extreme financial need and don’t even bother applying. Get this: Yale University costs $53,000/year, which less than half of their students actually pay although they can still afford it. Two out of three students who apply for financial aid will get some amount of money. FASFA is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. No matter what income you or your family makes, you should always apply every year to see if you are eligible for any money—you might be surprised.
2. Scholarships for lefties…and others: You can get a scholarship for basically anything, from being super tall to being left handed. Shocker, huh? It will take research, but even if it will save you a couple of hundred dollars, it’s worth the time. That money will come in handy for textbooks, travel to research symposiums, and other school extras. We like Fastweb for looking up all kinds of scholarships. With their database of 1.5 million scholarships you’re bound to find something to apply for.
3. Start off in your community: Community colleges are the least expensive colleges out there. You can save yourself some serious dough by spending your first two years of school there, especially since you will also likely be commuting from home (no hefty room and board charges!). After those two years are up, you can invest the money you saved into a more costly tuition at your desired school and still get the same degree as if you went there for four years.
4. Become a resident assistant: The average cost for room and board has been rising steadily over the years, ranging from $7,500 to $9,000 per year. If you plan to live on campus, why not be a Resident Assistant and live for free? A Resident Assistant (commonly referred to as an RA) is a trained peer leader who supervises those living in a residence hall or group housing facility. The job is pretty simple, and at most colleges you even get your own room! Plus, it shows leadership skills, which is appealing to future employers to have on your resume, and it’s a great way to stay plugged in to all social activities on campus.
5. Do a course overload: Taking more than the minimum course load in college could rack up enough college credits to graduate a semester or even a year earlier. It will require some extra hours in the library, but also save you tons of time and money. See if your school offers “course-packs,” or classes that can be paired together for more credits with fewer class hours. Just by graduating one semester early, you can save yourself thousands of dollars.