Here's a nightmare scenario that, sadly, afflicts a few students each year. Say that you get into your first-choice college and choose to attend, even though it doesn't offer you enough financial aid. After two years, you've run out of money, and the banks won't lend you what you'll need to finish your education. As a result, you end up transferring to a public university, resulting in a state school diploma that cost well over a private school price. That's an extreme case, but even if you complete all four years at the private school, you may find yourself with outsized debt, one of the major worries students have.
So what if you do it the other way around? You can start out at a public school, paying lower prices, all while working toward transferring to a private college later on. It's a route not nearly enough students consider, but it's one that offers a multitude of benefits in the long run. Here are three ways that transferring in later can save money — and stress — regardless of what your dream schools may be.
If on a very tight budget, starting with a two-year college is a great financial move. According to the College Board, in-district students pay an average of $3,440 to attend two-year public community colleges or junior colleges. Compared to the price tags at a lot of other institutions, that's a big chunk of change you could be saving!
Plus, a student with a good academic record at a community college can then transfer to a slightly more expensive state college for two more years to round out a bachelor's degree. (An added bonus: Going to a local state school can allow you the chance to earn your degree while living at home, and while that might not seem like the most exciting option to some, the savings in your bank account might be worth considering.)
To be clear: There is nothing wrong with a state school education, and those are actually often the best fit for many students! But if your heart is set on a particular private college that you can't afford, consider compromising by splitting the difference between the two. That is, go to a public college for the first two years and then transfer into the private college. You'll still get the full private college degree, but at a much smaller cost — one that's more likely feasible for you or your family.
Of course, keep in mind that getting accepted as a transfer student can be difficult — not only good, but outstanding grades are a must-have! — so if that's your ultimate goal, you've got to start working toward it from day one at your first college.
Starting public and aiming for private can work another way as well. If you know that some type of post-bachelor's degree is in your future, you could opt to save your time at a private college for when you go to earn that additional degree. Attending an in-state public university for your undergraduate years and then moving to a more prestigious (and expensive) private graduate school can help to save a lot of money. Just remember to keep your grades up; the more compelling your academic record, the better your chances of eventually getting into your ideal school or program.
Paying for college is no easy feat, and sometimes it can be difficult to consider options that seem like sacrificing the dream college experience you had in mind. But don't let that stop you from taking into account very realistic (and financially responsible!) options when deciding which route to take. For more tips on how to save while going for college, check out our book 8 Steps to Paying Less for College.
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