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5 Ways to Make Your College Education More Affordable

by Story2 Guest Author, on Jun 17, 2013 11:25:00 AM

Your college degree is an investment. Every successful college education should yield financial, personal, and professional benefits for the rest of your life. However, it’s no secret that a college degree can be very expensive. And in the past decade college costs have been on the rise in a major way. Last year the cost of a four-year education grew at twice the rate of inflation.

But we have good news! For a money-smart student who plans ahead, there is no reason college can’t still be affordable. If you take the following five tips to heart during your college search, you can greatly reduce the cost of your college education. 

#1: Search for generous colleges: While a college’s academic reputation should be taken into consideration, it is also important to consider their financial-aid reputation. There are a variety of factors that contribute to a generous college. Do they claim to meet 100% of every admitted student’s financial need? Do they offer comprehensive need-based or merit-based aid? Also, remember that while public colleges or universities may be cheaper on paper, the large endowments at many elite private institutions frequently make them a better choice for qualifying students.

#2: Find free programming: Many colleges and universities offer fee-waivers or fly-in programs for students with financial need. These programs can save you up to thousands of dollars in travel, application, and lodging costs. Be a bargain shopper and comb your favorite college or university’s website for descriptions of available programs for savvy students.

#3: Apply for as many scholarships as possible: You probably (hopefully) know that scholarships are an important component of any financial-aid strategy. But did you know research shows applying for scholarships can be a better investment of your time than a full-time job? National averages indicate that for every 10 scholarships you apply for, you should win at least 1. 70% of the materials you prepare for a scholarship can be used in consecutive scholarship applications. So the more scholarships you apply for, the quicker and more valuable they become. College Greenlight features a carefully curated database of over 8,000 scholarships that can serve as a starting point to your search for free money.

#4: Fill out the FAFSA: The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the most important financial document you’ve ever encountered. It determines how much federal and state aid you qualify for and must be filled out each year you are in college. While this might make you nervous, the FAFSA can be your best friend if taken seriously. Talk with your parents about the FAFSA now so that you are ready to fill it out accurately when the new application is available.

#5: Consider college graduation rates: While a college degree provides a guaranteed boost to your lifelong earning potential, not all colleges are created equal. One of the best indicators that a college is a worthwhile investment is its graduation rate. The faster you graduate, the less your degree will cost. A college that provides the support you need to finish a degree on-time can save you lots of money. Ask your favorite colleges how they help students stick to a four-year plan.

Any good investment requires work. By taking your college search seriously, applying for scholarships, and seeking out other opportunities for free money, you can look forward to a lifetime of healthy dividends from your investment in higher education.

By Raul Alvarez, Content Manager at College Greenlight. College Greenlight is dedicated to helping first-generation and underrepresented students identify their perfect colleges and scholarships. If you are a first-generation or underrepresented college-bound student, fill out a free College Greenlight student profile! For more great articles and advice, check out our blog

Topics:college admission