When the idea of saving for college is brought up, all the parents in the near vicinity seem to softly gasp and wear a slightly pained expression. While traditionally many parents feel that it is their responsibility to pay for their college-bound student, the reality of economics today may mean that is just not possible. Whether because of divorce, job changes, multiple children to send through college, or a myriad of other reasons, many parents simply cannot take on the added financial responsibility of paying for college. This leaves more and more students having to take on the responsibility of paying for their own college education.
So what should the college bound student do if they find themselves in this situation? Before giving up completely, do your homework, and understand there are options out there (besides borrowing the complete cost of college). Don’t let the cost of higher education keep you out of school. You may be thinking that it’s impossible to earn that desired degree but with some creative thinking and persistence you can find a way to achieve what you want. Here are some strategies which just might open some funds, and some new doors to the college or university of your choice:
• Prepare yourself to be able to skip over classes. There are basically two ways to do this. Many high schools offer classes (while still in high school) that result in college credit for a fraction of the cost of college tuition. Take advantage of these types of classes. Also many high schools offer Advanced Placement programs that offer a final test that upon passing, will result in a specific number of college credits. There is a fee for taking the test but the resultant college credit is free! (A note of caution on Advanced Placement credit; it is not always accepted at every college so be sure and check with your college of choice about the acceptance of this type of credit). After you have gotten into your college, many offer the opportunity to challenge particular courses by taking an exam which demonstrates your knowledge in a specific area. There is a small fee to take the exam but you’ll save big dollars on tuition and books.
• Go to a 2-year college or your second choice college first. Those local community colleges are typically much less expensive than four-year colleges. You can attend a much less pricey community college, and then transfer your accumulated credits to a four-year degree program. Also consider attending a local school where you can pay in-state tuition or a smaller lesser known school, which by attending either one, you can save significantly on the cost of college. You always have the option to transfer to the big name and bigger school down the road.
• Hit up your university for financial aid. There are plenty of scholarships out there that are for those who are not athletes or geniuses. The financial aid office of your chosen school can be extremely helpful in finding ways to help with the cost of college. Also, lots of religious groups, professional associations, civic organizations and fraternal groups also provide scholarships to willing students.
• Try to get credit for your life experiences. Some college coursework will allow you to create a portfolio of your on-the-job and life experiences and use it in lieu of completing coursework. While you won’t be able to obtain all your degree this way, it never hurts to ask; you just might be surprised by what credit you can gain this way.
• Be creative in finding ways to raise money for college. Consider selling stuff instead of taking out a loan. If you have a particular valuable asset (for example: a sports car) consider selling it and perhaps buying a cheaper model and using the proceeds to help fund your degree.
Statistics show that those workers who have a college degree earn over a million dollars more (over their lifetime) than their counterparts without a degree. So while it may be difficult to obtain that degree, keep in mind that being persistent, hardworking and creative can really pay off in the long run!