College is an investment. I know you have probably heard that often, but it’s true. My advice to you as your family begins to research colleges and universities is to not let the cost or the sticker price shock you. It is very rare that people pay that exact cost because of the many financial aid opportunities available. When I say “financial aid,” that doesn’t only equal loans.
Don’t limit your college options, because of the cost. Here are ways to reduce that sticker price:
- Apply to colleges early. Don’t wait until March or April. Often times, departments have already awarded their scholarships.
- File the FAFSA (ed.gov).
- Don’t be afraid of student loans.
- Always seek out additional scholarships outside of the university you plan to attend. Never stop applying for outside scholarships, even while enrolled in college. Every little bit adds up and helps.
- Take summer classes at a local community college. This will save money and time, especially if you plan to double major or are a student athlete, musician, etc.Be sure to check with your school’s registrar and academic advisor that the credits will transfer accordingly before you take any classes elsewhere.
Be proactive (not reactive) to the college admission process. I’ll say it again: Do yourself a favor and file the FAFSA. You’re only doing a disservice to yourself when you choose not to explore all avenues for possible financial aid. Filing the FAFSA won’t hurt you. It allows you to truly maximize all financial opportunities at each school.