Figuring out how to pay for college can be a considerable burden to young adults. Whether you’re trying to budget for your first year at university or are figuring out how to pay off that pile of student loans after graduation, college degrees are more expensive than ever. There are, however, ways to make college more affordable so that you can get your degree with less financial stress. Here are a few of our fave ways to make college more affordable.
1. Take Advantage of AP Credits
No one wants to suffer through an entire year of AP Chemistry, but the fact of the matter is that loading up on Advanced Placement credits during your junior and senior year of high school can cut down on the overall cost of college.
Here’s how—if you take an AP course and get a 3 or higher on the AP exam at the end of the year, many colleges count that class towards the overall credit you need to graduate. For example, let’s say that in your senior year of high school you take AP Chemistry, AP English Literature, and AP Psychology.
If you get a 3 or higher on the AP tests for each course, you could start college with three entire courses worth of credits or advanced placement—meaning, for example, you could skip Chemistry 101 and go right to organic chemistry in college.
How does that save you money? Well, the average cost of one credit hour at a university is a staggering $594. The more credits you enter college with, the fewer total credits you typically have to pay for, and the quicker you can jump into more advanced courses.
Of course, not all schools accept all AP credits. Some ultra-competitive schools may not let you use AP courses to reduce the total number of credits you’ll need to graduate or to skip introductory level courses. You may want to double check your dream school’s requirements before making final decisions.
2. Target Specific Scholarships
Applying for scholarships is probably the number one piece of advice given by school counselors when asked how to make college cheaper. While applying for scholarships is excellent advice, the process can seem daunting. The internet is full of thousands of scholarships for everything from winning a marble competition to being really, really tall.
A key to managing a scholarship search is to hone in on specific scholarships that meet both your qualifications and your needs. Websites like FastWeb and Scholarships.com make it easy to browse thousands of scholarships at a time and narrow them down to your specific interests.
That way, instead of applying for the same 10 scholarships as your entire graduating class, you can broaden your search to include lesser-known, but better-fitting scholarship opportunities.
In addition to targeting private scholarships on your own, you can also take advantage of special scholarships offered by your college. When you talk with your college counselor, ask for a list of merit-based scholarships, which are usually special scholarships funded by alumni to help students based on things like where you come from, what you’re studying, and other personal characteristics.
Many students focus their scholarship search only on big scholarships that offer full-rides or total tuition coverage, but broadening your search to also include smaller scholarships with a more narrow applicant pool can be a great way to make college more affordable because you can often combine several smaller scholarships to make a dent in your total tuition.
3. Go Digital With Expensive Textbooks
Perhaps the most complained about college expense are cumbersome, costly textbooks. The books, which you may use for as little as a few months, can cost hundreds of dollars each, but they’re required by your professors and integral to passing your courses. Well, one way to make college more affordable is to ditch the bulky hardbacks and go digital.
While your professors may not be up to date on the latest digital technology, many textbook distributors now offer digital versions of their books for a fraction of the price.
Even better, many libraries now provide e-reader lending programs where you can “check-out” a digital copy of your book and read it on your digital device for free throughout the semester.
The average college student spends about
$1,200 per year on textbooks and materials. If you managed to rent all your books digitally from the library instead, you could potentially save $4,800 over the course of a four-year degree.
4. Choose The Right Federal Student Loan Repayment Option
Wondering how to make college more affordable once you’ve already graduated? Don’t worry, it may not be too late to save some major cash on college. Since most college grads spend years paying off student loan debt, finding the right repayment plan can save you serious dough over the course of a student loan term.
Most grads with federal student loans are automatically placed on the Standard Repayment Plan after graduation, which requires you to pay off a certain amount every month over a 10-year period. Federal loans, however, offer many different repayment options, such as income-based repayment plans which can allow qualified applicants to receive lower monthly payments. Choosing the right payment plan for your personal circumstances can be one of the most effective ways to make college more affordable after graduation.
5. Refinance Your Student Loans
For some grads, student loan refinancing with a private lender can help save hard-earned cash and make that college degree less expensive during loan repayment. Loan refinancing may help you snag a lower interest rate and better payback terms, which can save you money over the life of your loan.
College can set you up for a meaningful career and help you discover your passions. And with the right tactics, you can figure out how to make college more affordable, whether you’re just starting your first college-level course, or are paying off that degree from five years ago.
SoFi is a leader is the student loan space, offering both private student loans to help pay your way through school, or refinancing options to help you save on the loans you already have.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.