Cut College Costs While Your Child is Still in High School

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As the parent of a high school junior or senior, you are probably getting an eye-opening first look at the cost of sending your child to college. Don’t be shocked by your first glimpse of college expenses, though. These are a starting point before financial aid and college scholarships are taken into consideration.

Colleges have a net price calculator on their websites to give you a better idea of what your out-of-pocket costs will be, but you really won’t get the final picture until you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) and financial aid award letters. Until then, there are a few steps you and your child can take now which might help cut the costs of college later:

  • Save More Money: The more you can pay out-of-pocket toward college costs, the less you will have to borrow. There are several kinds of tax-advantaged college savings plans which help you accumulate the necessary funds while also getting a tax break.
  • Earn College Credit in High School: Many high schools offer Advanced Placement classes where students earn college credits after passing a special exam. These classes are frequently offered at little to no cost as part of the high school curriculum.
  • Learn More in High School: Many colleges require students to take placement exams to determine their knowledge level in various topics. Students who score lower on these exams might need to take additional college classes to catch up to their peers, which could cost more money and extend the length of time they spend in college. Make sure your student takes advantage of as many classes in high school as possible so he or she doesn’t have to complete additional work in college.
  • Apply for Scholarships: Start applying for scholarships as early as possible to maximize the amount of “free money” your child receives.
  • Consider the Military: Military academies and ROTC programs offer college educations in return for military service after graduation. If students are willing to delay graduation for a few years, they may be able to attend college classes while they are on active duty in the military, depending on their military duties and where they are stationed. They may also qualify for benefits under the GI Bill which can help reduce costs significantly, depending on the college they choose to attend after their military service.
  • Learn About Financial Aid: The world of financial aid may initially seem confusing, but knowing more will help you make the most beneficial decisions. Don’t wait until you are completing the FAFSA to start learning about college financial aid; start gathering information now while your child is still in high school.

Ask a Financial Aid Professional for Advice

If you need more ideas about cutting the costs of college while your child is still in high school, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA) or visit my About.com website, Paying for College.