7 Tips For Winning The College Costs Battle

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The following information was sourced from Paying for College Without Going Broke: 2010 Edition by Kalman A. Chany (Random House / Princeton Review Books).

Just the other day I spoke with a father whose daughter is in her senior year of high school and is preparing her essays and applications for college. This particular family has some unique needs, but they are not too different from the typical American middle class household: money is tight, college is expensive, and they certainly don’t feel confident that they have enough funds to pay for college.

Begin Researching Now

dictionaryI had also just finished reviewing the latest edition of Kalman A. Chany’s Paying for College Without Going Broke, so I passed my copy of the book over to them, with instructions on what to look for inside. Time didn’t allow me to bring up all of the key points that Chany made, including a number of tips I will share with readers here:

1. Research Aid Options Now – Though mostly everyone is thinking about leftover turkey, buying a Christmas tree, and discount shopping, Chany says that families should start looking for financial aid now. A weak economy means more families will be looking for assistance which also means that competition for funds will be intense.

2. Apply For Aid Regardless – You may think that you can afford to pay for your son’s or daughter’s education, but that could all change if your financial picture changes suddenly. Some schools may allow you to file for reconsideration should that happen, but only if you filed for aid on time in the first place.

3. Consider All Educational Opportunities – Plenty of families steer away from colleges which they deem to be too expensive. This is a mistake as many private colleges have boosted their aid packages accordingly. Have a back-up plan in place – that is, apply to a state institution where your college student can live at home if necessary.

4. Begin With Community Colleges – From personal experience I can tell you that this option may work out well for your student. Community college tuition is reasonable and, if your state allows it, those credits can transfer to a four-year institution. A number of private universities are receptive to accepting community college transfers; check with these schools to see if they will accept those credits.

5. Take Those AP Courses – SayCampusLife covered this trend previously – students who take Advanced Placement (AP) courses while still in high school can receive credit for completed coursework. Dual enrollment programs allow students to complete their high school education and get college credit too.

6. Retake Your Standardized Tests – Perhaps your son or daughter has already taken the SAT or ACT and done quite well. Is there room for improvement? A higher score can mean a more attractive aid package as colleges and universities seek out the best and brightest minds to populate their student bodies.

7. Avoid The Debt Monster – Don’t put your tuition on a credit card, consider federal student loans, and avoid private student loans at all costs. Consider how much debt your student can reasonably carry once in the work world given their major, starting salary, and career path.

Get To Work

Will these tips be enough? That isn’t for certain, but by taking action now you can avoid scurrying for funds later. Rising college freshmen need every edge that they can get; apply for aid early and you may come up with a more attractive financial aid package.

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