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How to save money on college

Here are a number strategies for lowering college costs.

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You can’t put a price on a good education, but the fact remains that college is expensive. Even if you've managed to secure grants or scholarships, things like accommodation, textbooks, and travel can seriously dent your finances. However, while it may sometimes seem impossible, paying for college doesn’t have to be out of reach. In fact, you can make that dream more affordable than you realize. You just have to be creative with your time, money, and resources. Here are 10 ways to lower college costs.

1. Take AP courses in high school

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Earning college credit by acing an AP course and test is one way to lower college costs.

Ace an AP class and test and that’s one less pricey college class you’ll need to take. With enough AP credits to your name, you may be able to skip several introductory courses in college, saving you money on tuition costs. You can take advanced placement (AP) classes for more than 30 subjects and students who pass AP tests at the end of the school year receive valuable college credits. You can begin registering and taking AP classes during your sophomore year and you can continue to take AP courses throughout your junior and senior years. Just be aware that the rigorous coursework is not recommended for first-year students.

2. Apply for as many scholarships as you can

Even if you've convinced yourself that you aren't deserving, it's worth applying for as many scholarships, grants, or financial aid programs as possible. Provided you have the necessary grades, scholarships and grants are free money for college, and you’ll want to land as many as possible. Reach out to your school’s guidance counselor for tips and advice, as well as your local library.

To get started, use this free scholarship search tool from the U.S. Department of Labor. And consider these tips for writing a stellar scholarship application.

3. Reach out to a variety of schools

While it's reasonable to have college preferences avoid limiting your options, especially if it can make the difference between affording or not affording to go to college. When selecting your picks cast as wide a net as possible and apply to a mix of public and private colleges and universities. A private school may offer you a substantial aid package and may not be out of reach.

“With merit aid, private schools can have the same net price as state universities, which are typically more affordable,” says Angela Colatriano, chief marketing officer at College Avenue Student Loans. “Make sure to check out the school resources and calculators available to get a sense of the amount of aid given and total cost of college.”

4. Go where you are wanted

Even if they aren't your first choice, if a college really wants you and is offering a rich student aid package, put them at the top of your list. Find out all that college has to offer. Visit the campus and get a feel for the place. It may be the right spot for you in addition to offering you a very generous financial aid package. Another preferred college with a so-so aid package may not stack up.

5. Attend a community college

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Attending community college for two years and then transferring to a four year college is a great way to lower college tuition expenses.

Complete your first two years of studies at a community college and save money on tuition costs. You can transfer to a four-year college once you complete your associate’s degree.

“Students are usually required to take general education classes, and your student can get these done for a lot less at a community college,” Colatriano says. “Many states may offer low tuition at community colleges with guaranteed admission at specific four-year universities.”

The four-year college you have your eye on may offer guaranteed acceptance for students from your community college. Check out these connections before you enroll. And you’ll have smooth sailing to the four-year college of your choice.

6. Live at home

If you are attending a community college or a local college or university, if possible, opt to live at home and save on housing costs. Dorms or apartment living all cost money. Deciding to live at home makes financial sense and will help to lower your college costs.

7. Get around without a car

Head to college without a car and save money on gas, upkeep, and auto insurance.

“Parking fees, car insurance, gas, and repairs can really add up,” Colatriano says. “Uber and Lyft or other public transportation options can be affordable ways to get around depending how far and how often students need to commute.”

And you also can walk or bike to campus if you live nearby. After all, with the increased adoption of online classes you may only be venturing to campus one or two days a week.

8. Buy used or rent textbooks.

Textbooks are pricey and you can trim expenses by buying used books or renting the textbooks you need for class. Chegg and CampusBooks.com are among the sites renting and selling textbooks online.

9. Cash in on student discounts.

From technology and school supplies to restaurants, you’ll save just by being a college student. So check for discounts around campus and town. For savings on that all-important laptop, check out the websites of technology companies. You may be able to find what you want for less.

10. Make the most of campus amenities.

Free movie nights, free concerts, and free fitness classes are all available on campus. Campus events in the student union may have free food. So take in all campus life has to offer and nab some free food while you are at it. Take advantage of these and other free opportunities you find around campus.

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