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.