College isn't cheap, but it's an excellent investment - in you. Whether you're in college, or will be in a few years, there are things you can do right now to graduate with less debt.
1. Cover Your Core Classes at a Community College
Consider covering your core classes at a community college. They tend to be more affordable than those offered by a four-year school. If you're in high school, make sure you meet with your advisor to help you determine if this is the best path to help you achieve your education goals. Generally, you can transfer credits earned from a community college - just make sure you meet with a college representative from the school you plan to attend to confirm they are transferable. To help you find the college that's right for you, check out the US Department of Education's College Navigator.
2. Take Advanced Placement (AP) Classes and Exams to Earn College Credit
Compared to the cost of one college class, an AP course can be significantly less, and in some cases it can be free if it's part of a high school's curriculum and the exam costs less than $100. Before taking the exam, check with your college to ensure they will award you the credit. Learn more at AP Central.
3. Buy Used Books
Used textbooks are just as good slightly worn as they are brand new, and they can help you reduce costs. When it comes to shopping for books, you can find some great deals online from textbooks.com, bn.com, amazon.com, and biblio.com. You may even want to explore renting textbooks at chegg.com.
4. Live at Home if You Can
When looking at the price tag, commuting from home can cost less than living on campus or on your own off campus. To help you compare costs use this calculator to help you itemize and project expenses whether you live at home, on or off campus.
5. Go to a State School
To save some money, consider going to a state school instead of a private college or university. When looking at state schools, always compare prices for in-state and out-of-state residents. In-state schools can be significantly cheaper. That said, don't forget to compare your financial aid packages because some private schools may offer a competitive award package with costs comparable to those of a state school. For a list of the top public schools in the US, check out the best values in public colleges.
6. Find Scholarships
There's a scholarship for almost everyone. With a ton of resources at your fingertips, there's no reason to pass up an opportunity to get free money. Do your research and apply early. To help you locate scholarships, here are a fegreat places to get you started:
By having a job, you can limit the amount you need to borrow because you're able to "pay now, not later." When looking for jobs, search for opportunities on campus (like work-study) and off-campus by using popular job sites like monster.com and indeed.com. Also, check out CollegeHelpers.com for part-time, off-campus jobs, summer jobs and internships.
8. Get a Paid Internship
You'll score valuable real-world experience, build a network of professional contacts and earn extra cash. Start your search by talking to your school's career services department and your professors for guidance and basic requirements. You can also search for internships online with college.monster.com and CollegeHelpers.com. Remember, before accepting any internship, check with your school to verify the suitability of the position for your background and interests.
9. Join ROTC
Join a ROTC program while in college. ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps, provides valuable training and experience along with tuition assistance and money to help pay for college expenses. Learn more by visiting rotc.com.
10. Enroll in Teach For America
Teach in an underprivileged area by enrolling in Teach For America. As a member of the corps, you get to make an impact on student achievement. And for your commitment, you may be eligible to receive assistance in repaying certain student loans or receive other benefits, such as scholarships for grad school. For more information, visit teachforamerica.org.