If you or one of your children is graduating from high school this year, you probably already know most of the traditional ways to save money such as buying textbooks on Amazon.com instead of the college’s or university’s book store and living off campus. There are other ways to save on college costs you might not have thought of. For example, your town or city might offer scholarships where there would fewer people competing for them. There are also scholarships available for specific types of students. As an example of this, where we live there are Chick Evans scholarships available to high school seniors who were caddies in high school.
There are websites where you can easily search for scholarships like FastWeb and NextStudent. All you need to do is type in your profile and either of these webs will do the searching for you.
Being undecided costs money
You’ll probably end up spending extra money if you start your freshman year undecided about your major. You or your child could actually save money by beginning school knowing what he or she wants to major in and then sticking with it. Switching majors just once can mean an extra semester in school and we don’t have to tell you what that would cost.
Do you have a friend or a twin?
If you have a friend searching for a college or university and you steer him or her to your school, you might earn a discount. Some schools offer a 2-for-1 deal if you and a twin or sibling who is close to you in age both go to the same college. As an example of this, George Washington University has such a plan in place. Be sure to check with your school to see if it offers such a plan.
Take college-level courses like you’re still in high school
If you take AP courses in high school, almost all colleges and universities will give you credit for them and these credits would be free. In some cases, you could get your entire freshman year out of the way before starting college – and at no cost. The following video explains more about taking college-level classes in high school and how this could help you get a head start on college.
Look for a … coupon?
One school in Chicago recently offered a 60% discount coupon via Groupon for an introduction teaching course. Who knows? Maybe this will catch on and more schools will offer discounts via merchants’ site like Groupon.
Perhaps the number one way to save money is by starting at a community college. This provides the opportunity to get your general education courses out of the way at a much lower cost than what they would be at a four-year college or university. The College Board has reported that the annual cost of a year at a community college is $2963. This is nearly one-third of the $8244 it typically costs at a four-year college. After a year or two, you could transfer those credits to a four-year college and save literally thousands of dollars.
Join the military
There are numerous programs where you could get financial support in exchange for a period of military service. If you are a degree-seeking student, there are scholarships available for veterans to ROTC cadets. And many of these scholarships come with benefits such as a monthly living allowance and money for textbooks.
Get a work-study job
These are part-time jobs funded by the federal government where how much your earn is dictated by your FAFSA. If you become eligible for one of these jobs, a school official will work with you to create a schedule that will fit your academic commitments. These jobs typically pay at least the federal minimum wage. There are also institutional work-study jobs offered by the individual schools. These are part-time, on-campus jobs that are not subsidized by the federal government and are open to anyone regardless of financial need.
Be an RA
RAs or Residential Assistants are responsible for everything in a college dorm from arbitrating disagreements between students or roommates to mentoring younger students. There is a lot of responsibility associated with this job but it does come with some very nice benefits. This can include free or reduced meal plans, free housing or tuition discounts.
Get an accelerated degree
Naturally, if you could get your degree in three years instead of four you would automatically lop about 25% off the cost of your education. How could you accelerate your degree? Depending on your major, you might be able to take some classes online, during the summer or as mini-semesters where there are fewer or shorter breaks. You might find that your college or university has a program where you could take courses on an under graduate level but that satisfy the requirements for graduate-level degrees. In this case, you would be able to earn a Masters degree much faster then normal.
Look for even more opportunities
If you keep your eyes open, you should be able to find other ways to earn extra cash. One example of this is the website CollegeNET.com that hands out weekly scholarships worth anywhere from $300-$1000 based on your participation in its discussion boards that pose questions on everything from personal beliefs to global issues. You might also find ways to earn money at your school by having a student leadership position or by being involved in research studies.