Tips for Saving For College

Accumulate College Credits Before Going to College
Trim tuition costs by earning college credit before college by taking Advanced Placement courses and tests. In addition to impressing admissions committees, advanced placement courses are also much less expensive than their college counterparts. Many students are able to accumulate an entire semester of credits before graduating high school. That's not bad given the cost of a semester at many private universities and even some public schools for non state residents.  Also, consider concurrent enrollment classes, internships, public service, and job training as other ways to earn college credit.

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Financial Aid
Start searching for scholarships and grants during your freshman year. Identifying potential financial aide sources enables you to plan and take classes or be involved in activities that will increase your chance of receiving specific financial aid.  Don’t wait until your senior year!

Document Your Accomplishments
Keep track of all activities, events, clubs, service groups you are involved in during high school.  Save photographs, certificates, newspaper clippings, programs – everything that can document your involvement and be used when preparing for academic awards, scholarships, and college applications.

College Saving Accounts
Start early and contribute regularly to education IRAs, a 529 plan, or other college saving accounts or plans.  Even a modest weekly or monthly contribution can result in a significant college fund if started early enough.

Look into Combined Degree Programs
Many schools offer combined degree programs that save you time as well as money. These programs consist of completing combined bachelor's and master's degrees or master's and doctorate degrees. Depending on your career interests, these may be worth considering.

Explore Ways to Pay the In-State Tuition Rates for Public Colleges
Many states, particularly several in the Midwest with declining populations have very short citizen time requirements. If the requirement is only six months, for instance, it may behoove you to move to the state immediately upon graduating and attend school part time your first semester while working full time. Once you are a citizen of the new state, you could then begin taking classes full time.

In certain extreme cases where you are certain of your desire to attend a particular school, say Michigan where the out-of-state tuition rivals that of private schools, you may want to consider moving in with a relative that may live in that state for your senior year of high school. (Yes, we do realize that this is a bit risky and dramatic. Hence, we stress you may want to do this only in certain extreme cases.)

Live at Home
You may lose a little bit of the excitement others are experiencing by passing up on the opportunity to live in a dorm room, but the more important thing is that you would not be passing up a college education. Additionally, without the distractions of the dormitory, your college studies may prove more successful and you may find yourself much less likely of flunking out.

Take Advantage of any Available Tuition Prepayment Discounts
Some colleges offer discounts of up to 10% for early payment. Even if you do not have the cash to prepay this tuition, in the current low interest-rate environment, it may be cheaper to finance this prepayment with a loan.

Leave the Car at Home
This is truly a luxury. Additionally, you may not even need a car on many college campuses. The chances are good everything you need will be within walking distance and your friends will have cars for those occasionally long road trips you'll certainly want to take. Let them worry about parking, insurance, theft and all those other auto-related worries while you focus on your studies and your finances.

Pay off Your Credit Card Debts
Consumer debt such as credit card balances are NOT used in calculating your financial need. In addition to being sound financial advice given by many experts, it is also a convenient way to lower your assets by paying down those Mastercard and Visa bills.

Pay Down Your Mortgage
So you're fortunate enough to not have credit card debt? There still may be something you can do. Not everyone considers home equity when assessing financial need. As a result, paying down your mortgage may be a good strategy.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You...
Many so called "experts" will advise you that you can save money by taking classes at a less expensive school such as a 2 year junior or community college and then transfer these credits to the 4 year school of your choice. There are a few dangers to this approach that are rarely noted:

It is unlikely all the credits will transfer. (This includes examples of transferring all your credits from a community college to a 4 year public university located in the same state.)

It may be more difficult to gain admission as a transfer. Depending on the school's attrition rate, they are likely seeking fewer transfer students than incoming freshmen.

Some schools restrict the financial aid available to transfer students.

Finally, any course of action that extends the time you are a student also extends the time until you are able to work full-time and begin repaying those interest-accruing loans.



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