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Paying for College: 10 Tips That Can Help You Cut Your College Expenses

February 28, 2012

By Susie Watts

Expert Author Susie Watts

Paying for college is a shock for most parents. Tuition for both private and public colleges and universities has far surpassed what anyone could have predicted. Just applying to college costs a lot of money when you consider application fees, submitting test scores and all the other expenses involved. Few families are prepared to have to pay this much money to educate their children. Whether you are one of those parents who have saved for college through the years or one who simply didn’t have the means to do the kind of college planning that might have been helpful, there are still some ways to help your family pay for college.

1. Hopefully, you have filled at the FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid) online in order to qualify for financial aid. If not, there is still time to do so. Don’t wait, however, because money is available as long as it is there. Even if you think you do not quality for financial aid, fill out the FAFSA anyway. You may be surprised.

2. After you have filled out the FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid award letter from the schools to which your child has applied. If you find that it does not provide sufficient help for you to pay for college, you can call the financial aid department at a school and see if they can help you fill the gap between what they have offered and what you feel you are able to pay. If your financial circumstances have changed since you filled out the FAFSA, but sure to contact the school and see if they can increase your financial aid.

3. Encourage your child to apply for scholarships, both at the schools to which they have applied and from other sources. Some colleges offer scholarships for particular majors, community service, or specific talents. Also, check with your church or synagogue, workplace or community organizations that frequently offer scholarships to students in your local area.

4. Have your child get a summer job so that those earnings can be used for additional expenses like entertainment, school supplies, clothing and other needs that are bound to come up during a college semester. It is amazing how much summer job earnings can help and relieve parents of those expenses.

5. Help your child to choose a college dorm that is reasonably priced. Sometimes there is a significant difference in living accommodations. If a dorm is newer and provides suites and additional recreational facilities, you may quite a bit more than your more traditional college dorm where two or three students share a room and a community bathroom.

6. Carefully consider the campus meal plans. If your child is not a breakfast eater and would prefer to pick up a bagel on the way to class, why pay for breakfasts for a full week. Some meal plans include eating in off campus restaurants, while others are limited to campus dining facilities. Choose the plan that is best for your child and it will help you save some money and make paying for college a little less stressful.

7. Have your child look for college textbooks online. They are usually considerably less expensive than ones in the college book store. If the books are not available online, check the bookstore and see if they have some used copies. Also ask the professors whether an older addition of a book would be acceptable. They are usually cheaper.

8. If your child is offered federal work-study as part of your financial aid package, this is a great way to help you pay for college. Your college student can earn extra money by working part-time doing many different jobs on campus. Usually there is a need in the dining facilities, at sports events, or working with a professor who may want an assistant.

9. If work-study is not offered by the school, have your child consider babysitting for local families, house or pet care, computer assistance for students or anything else that they are able to do to help defray college expenses.

10. For students who travel by airplane to get to their college, it is always a good idea to book the flights way in advance. Make sure you know the exact dates your child plans to travel and book those reservations as soon as you do. It is also a good idea to try and fly on the same airline so that you can sign up for a frequent flier program and at least earn some miles.

Paying for college can seem overwhelming, but these suggestions will at least help you cut college costs.

Susie Watts is a private college counselor and the founder of College Direction in Denver, Colorado. To find out more ways to help pay for college, go to You can also sign up to receive the free monthly newsletter which always has a full article on financial aid and scholarships. Susie assists with the college search, essay and application process, financial aid and scholarships, and provides college counseling services for students of all abilities, including learning differences.


From → College Finances

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