By Pam Molnar
Start by getting good grades in high school
Your GPA and ACT/SAT scores will award you merit scholarships without even having to apply for them. Many schools have charts and scholarship calculators where prospective students can plug in their scores to reveal their automatic breaks.
Take AP courses or college credit courses
Many high schools offer college credit courses through a local community college. In addition, students taking AP classes in high school can test at the end of the school year and those who receive a C or higher on the test will get college credit for the class. The AP test is about $100 – much less than the cost of a college class and corresponding books.
Apply for national scholarships
Before you apply, make a list of all your associations as well as those of your immediate family. There are scholarships available for left-handers, children and grandchildren of war veterans and family of members of groups such as the Lions Club. Check out websites like collegescholarships.com or books like “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe for an unbelievable list of scholarships available to you.
Check out your high school’s website for information on local businesses, churches and sports organizations offering scholarships. While none of them offer full rides, the generous $500 to $1000 scholarships add up quickly and cover things like books, housing and travel expenses that merit scholarships don’t cover.
Only 2% of high school athletes are offered some form of athletic scholarships and the opportunity to compete in college. Some athletes seek less popular sports such as bowling or rugby hoping for a smaller pool of scholarship contenders. Be aware that D3 schools, which are often small, private colleges, do not offer athletic scholarships at all.
Get a summer and on campus job
If a student works 20 hours at $7.25 per hour, they will gross $145 week. Even after minimal taxes, that is more than $5000 per year.
Consider joining a public service program
Such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corp, National Health Service Corp or ROTC. They often offer college scholarships, reduced loans or deferred loans in exchange for service.
Community colleges offer a lot of great college savings
Classes are available during the day or evening so you can work full or part time. Because the school is local, students can live at home to save on room and board. The cost of classes, many of which transfer to a four year school, are much less per credit hour. Some community colleges even offer 3 and 1 programs allowing students to pay community college prices for three years and one year at a local four year institution.
Employer reimbursement programs
If you are going to work while in college, consider working for a company who offers a tuition reimbursement program. UPS, Starbucks and Verizon are just a few of the companies that offer tuition reimbursement to full and part time employees. The average assistance is $5250 per year.
College employees and their children get discounts on their college education
Please note, this is not available for a part time student position in the book store. This is for regular staff such as professors, the bursar office team and maintenance crew members. Full time employees and their children are usually offered a discount for tuition only, but since you most likely live within driving distance, you will also save on room and board.
Try to graduation sooner by taking summer and online classes at your community college
You can also take an extra class or two each semester to boost your credits and complete your requirements early. By graduating early you will save on room and board – an average of $10,000.
Look for book options
Books are crazy expensive. Don’t fall for the convenience of the college book store. Get your class syllabus and determine the best option for buying books. Look online at Amazon, consider used books, share with a roommate or rent the books for half the price. Try looking at local used book stores and Ebay to get the most bang for your buck.
Six Surprising College Facts
1. The average cost of a four year in-state public college education is $98,440 according to collegedata.com. Out of state college fees are often higher and don’t report cost of travel expenses. Private schools average $197,280 for a four year education.
2. National Center for Education Statistics reports the average time to complete a bachelor’s degree is 52 months or just over 6 years. Sadly, that is an additional cost that families often don’t budget for, especially for those with more than one child.
3. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 52.9 percent of students who enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2009 completed school within six years. That number is declining.
4. According to Student Loan Hero, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from the previous year.
5. The average monthly student loan payment is $351. Yikes!
6. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projected the Class of 2016 to have an average salary of $50,556. Those numbers are compiled from 10 broad range degree areas such as Business, Education, Communication, Engineering and Healthcare.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of one college student and two high school students. With the rising cost of education, she is always on the lookout for ways to save on college tuition.