The new school year has officially started and for many high school Juniors and Seniors that means it’s time to decide on which school to go to. In this post we’ll cover several ways that you can start planning now to be able to save tens of thousands of dollars over your college career. Post-secondary education is more expensive now than it ever has been before. The price of a good education is inflated to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. And many believe that every penny is worth it.
These high prices come with an opportunity that makes it all possible: student loans. Student loans are a blessing and a curse. They allow you to pay for an education that will spring board you into a career, but at the same time, with prices as they are, they can put you into debt for 5 – 10 years at a time. And that can be very hard to pay off with an entry-level job.
Fortunately, you can avoid too much debt before they begin by implementing the following strategies before you even enter the college arena.
First, participate in concurrent enrollment. At many community colleges throughout the nation, you can take classes that count for both High School and College credit. These classes are often much cheaper than you would pay if you were just at college. Get some of those generals out of the way early and save yourself hundreds of dollars in your future tuition costs.
Second, start working as soon as you can. Get a job that you can work throughout your high school years. While you live under such luxury, i.e. your parents pay for everything, you can earn and save a lot of money now that you can put towards your college education. Keep a bit of money to spend on yourself (for food, clothes, and other hobbies), but try to save as much as you can while you aren’t forced to pay for much of anything. After just nine months of working 15 hours a week at $8 an hour, you can earn a gross total of $4,320. That’s equivalent to nearly two full-time semesters at an in-state college. Add on full-time work for the same wage over a summer and you wind up with a gross income of $8,160 on the year. Do that for two or three years before college and you take a significant chunk of debt out of your future. So when you can work, do it.
Third, take AP classes. Like concurrent enrollment, AP classes offer you the chance to earn college credit from High School classes. The curriculum is a bit more intense, but if you take and pass the AP test, you can earn instant credits for your college career. The only thing you to need to be sure of is that you check with the colleges you want to apply to in order to discover if they take the AP credits or not. Some are selective as to which classes they accept. What’s the point in paying for a test if you’re just going to have to take the class anyways right?
Fourth, when you do get into college, move to the state soon after graduation. Find someone to live with or live in an apartment early so you can declare residency there. In-state residents often pay much less on tuition (thousands less) than normal students. If you can declare your residency there, then you’ll immediately become benefactor to the benefits. Consider getting a full-time summer job there the summer you’re supposed to move in so you can try to hit minimum requirements for “time lived in-state.”
Fifth, in many schools, after you hit a minimum “full-time” requirement in credits, you can add more without paying an extra dime. Take advantage of those opportunities. Take more credits than the bare minimum so you can essentially get one or two classes free every semester.
Now many schools often cap the total number of credits you can take in a single semester to about 18. With special need and a compelling argument, e.g. great grades, you can sometimes get special permission to take 19-21, adding an extra free class to the list.
The only con of this style is that 12-15 hours is often more than enough class time and homework to keep you always busy. 18 credits of work are usually considered crazy, and anything past that is pure genius. Students who attempt this route will save more money in the long run, but they’ll be forced to put their nose to the grinder if they want to do well.
Sixth, claim free money. Grants and scholarships abound. Find them and apply. People will pay you to go to school.
Prepare for your freshman year intelligently. Earn money before coming. Move to the state early. Take extra credits. Get as many credits out of the way in high school that you can. Make a claim on the free money out there. Your final bill of debt may still be high, but it’ll be much less than those that didn’t prepare.