ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled Saved to Favorites.
Articles / Paying for College / 3 Ways to Save Money on College

April 2, 2020

3 Ways to Save Money on College

3 Ways to Save Money on College

iStock

One of the main concerns expressed by parents and students alike in our annual College Hopes & Worries survey is the ability to pay for a college education. It's no secret that college is expensive, but with a little forethought, you can make that price tag something more within your reach. Even still, sometimes it takes a bit of creative thinking in order to make the cost of college feasible. Here are three smart ways to help fund your college education.


Focus on Finding a Financial Fit

First and foremost, when searching for your best-fit college, you must also keep in mind that a school is only best for you if it meets your financial needs. Finding a financial fit means looking for a school that offers a high return on your tuition investment. Look for schools that strive to help students pay for college with grants and scholarships rather than just student loans.

Additionally, while it's true that you should never judge a book by its cover, it is more than okay to judge a school by its career services. That's because, according to the aforementioned College Hopes & Worries survey, career services actually rank higher in importance among both parents and students than a school's overall fit, affordability or academic reputation. So when you visit a college, take a tour of the career center and inquire about what services are offered. Keep in mind that those offered to you after graduation can be just as important as those offered to currently attending students. For help pinpointing what schools excel in these areas, check out our Best Value College rankings lists.

Customize Your College Timeline

When you think of a traditional college timeline, you probably picture spending four years at a single school to earn your degree. From a financial perspective, that might not be the best route to take! Consider this: Students who first begin at a community college, or even a state school, and choose to later transfer to a private school can still earn the same degree as those students who spend their entire education at that private school. Transfer students do not receive any special notation on their diploma stating that some classes were taken elsewhere, but their overall financial costs may show some positive differences.

Similarly, managing to finish your degree in fewer than four years can help you keep costs down. If you can handle the increased workload, consider taking additional courses in a semester or opting for summer classes. Overall, don't restrict yourself to a four-year timeline just because that's what others have traditionally done.

Get a Head Start

My final tip might require a bit more advanced planning, but it can be one of the most fruitful financial practices: earn college credit while in high school. There are several options commonly available to students in your position, including one you're probably already familiar with: AP Exams. Snagging enough high scores on the APs can sometimes save students a whole year of tuition dollars. That's a serious chunk of change!

Other less common but still viable options include taking CLEP exams and signing up for dual-enrollment courses, which allow you to head off to a college campus for certain introductory courses while still completing your regular high school coursework. For all of these options, keep in mind that the credits colleges accept will vary depending on the school's policy, so do your research to ensure you are spending your time wisely.

Folks, I want to ensure you overall that while college may seem like a major financial burden, it is almost always worth it. And with a little financial aid finessing, it is also almost always doable. For more on funding your education, check out our books Paying for College and 8 Steps to Paying Less for College. Plus, head over to our YouTube channel, where we post content regularly to help you achieve your college goals.

Share Your Thoughts

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

Written by

Rob Franek

Rob Franek

College Admissions and Test Prep Expert

More on Paying for College

5 FAFSA Tips for Applicants With Divorced Parents

5 FAFSA Tips for Applicants With Divorced Parents

Completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be complicated enough, but when you add divorced parents, st…

Webinar Recap: FAFSA and Paying for College 101

FAFSA and Paying for College 101

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2022-2021 academic year opens next week, on October 1, 2021.

For coll…

Is National Merit as Big a Deal as My Parents Say It Is?

Is Being a National Merit Finalist a Big Deal?

I just got back my PSAT scores and it appears I didn't meet the National Merit cutoff. My parents want to appeal because Nat…

Students sitting around a table

Best Deals for Students on Laptops for College

It’s back-to-school shopping time, and college students are on the lookout for deals on the best laptops and electronics for scho…

amol-tyagi-UZFCQPNc4bs-unsplash.jpg

Money Savings Strategies For College Students, Plus Apps To Keep You On Track


College life is expensive. Between tuition, housing, books, and everyday purchases, it’s easy for costs to pile up if you’re not …

A-Z College Forums

Browse the College Forums
C1E9D4E7-C4C9-4B28-8946-8F441A6D62B3

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.