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Don't be intimidated by the hype about college costs. The sticker price for a college education is more than most people can afford, but there are many ways to bring that cost down significantly.
Submit your financial aid application early: Meeting financial aid deadlines sooner rather than later can influence the amount of aid you receive. Do your research early and get your applications in on time. There are a lot of people applying for aid, and if you are on time you will increase your chances of getting what you need.
Don’t rule out private colleges: Many schools are increasing the amount of aid offered. Make sure you apply to a backup school, but don’t rule out those more expensive private schools. They often have aid packages that dramatically reduce the cost of attending.
Start at a community college: Starting at a community college and then finishing up at a more expensive school can reduce your costs considerably, while still giving you a diploma from a school that is higher on your list of choices. Just make sure the second college accepts the credits from the first.
Apply for federal loans: Look for federal loans and avoid private loans. The terms are much better.
Apply for financial aid—even if you don't need it: If your circumstances change, it is better to have filled out the paperwork.
Look into college scholarships: There are free online services to help you find the right scholarships to apply for. You can also ask a school guidance counselor for advice.
Use tax credits to save: The Hope/American Opportunity credit and the Lifetime Learning credit are available to help pay for college courses. The Department of Education and IRS websites have detailed information on these credits.