It is possible to make your path to college more affordable, it just takes a little effort to find the right combination of loans, grants, and scholarships that suits your life and goals.
Nothing ruins the buzz of reading college acceptance letters quite like seeing the cost of tuition written in the fine print.
With the average price of a four-year degree hovering around $122,000, figuring out how to finance a college education can seem like a huge hurdle to overcome.
The good news? There are tons of strategies for making college more affordable.
See it all the way out there?! It’s your college future. And it’s closer than you think when you take advantage of federal aid and loans!
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Submitting the FAFSA to your colleges of interest should be step one so that you can find out your overall financial aid package from each university.
The FAFSA determines your eligibility for government financial aid such as grants and low-interest loan packages. It can also qualify you for work-study which makes it easy to find a student job on campus. An insider tip for work-study: find a job where you can get your schoolwork done at the same time! This could be working the front desk at the library, proctoring exams, or being a receptionist in a dorm.
The FAFSA also helps universities determine how much aid they should give you from their own funds. This aid can come from scholarship and grant programs (often through alumni donations) or merit based awards. Some schools might also have scholarships based on your intended major, so be sure to check in with your major department!
You Might be able to Improve Your Aid Packages
You can often appeal if a university’s aid package doesn’t meet your needs. It is possible to try to negotiate a better award with the financial aid office, especially if you receive a better package from another equally competitive school. Universities want their enrollment rates to be high so they may be motivated to try to get you a better package and secure your enrollment. Ask your college counselor to help you navigate this process so that it’s done strategically and respectfully.
Apply for External Grants and Scholarships
You can search for scholarships on sites such as Scholarships.com, The College Board, and Fastweb. While there are scholarships aimed at the general public, there are also scholarships which cater to niche groups of applicants. Eligibility can be based on ethnicity, organization affiliation (for you or possibly a relative), talents, relative’s veteran status, overcoming past adversity, and many other factors. You can even find scholarships for your intended major or field of study.
Outside of online resources, you can utilize your network to see if scholarships are offered from any of your communities or affiliations. For example, if you go to a church/temple/mosque/etc. ask around to see if anyone there knows of scholarships linked to your community or religion.
You can also try to get involved in leadership or service organizations that offer scholarships such as Rotary International.
Fundraise by asking friends, family, and members of your community if they would consider contributing to your education. It can be helpful to utilize email, social media, and crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe.
Try to make a persuasive argument by 1) describing your dreams, strengths, and challenges, 2) being specific about where their contribution will go and how exactly it will help you, 3) making it personal: consider including a video recording with your message, clips or photos from your extra-curricular activities, or evidence of your achievements like strong report cards, awards certificates, or recommendation letters.
Spain is a great option for Verto students looking to study in Europe affordably. Not only are meals and housing included, but Spain tends to be more affordable when it comes to food, transportation, and entertainment than some of their European counterparts.
Choose a More Affordable City
Keep in mind that a portion of your college expenses will come from your lifestyle; tuition isn’t the only factor to consider. By choosing a college located in a more affordable city, you can save costs on housing, transportation, food and entertainment. If you choose a city or town with a strong university presence, you may also be able to find student deals at local restaurants and shops.
You can also consider going to college nearby and living at home. While this isn’t for everyone, living at home can save you significant cash by cutting out housing costs and sharing food expenses.
Forget dark dorms and lousy cafeteria food, many universities are now known for their delicious cuisine and modern accommodations. Take the Verto student residence hall in Spain for example!
Take Advantage of Campus Housing and Dining Hall
Find out what your college offers in terms of housing and amenities. Living on campus can often be cheaper than finding your own housing (although it will depend on the school and the city) and university dining hall packages are cheaper than eating out. Schools might give vouchers for these depending on your FAFSA eligibility and their own policies.
Consider Community College and Online Courses
Community and online colleges can be much cheaper options. If you still want to have the typical college campus experience, you can consider enrolling in these alternative colleges for a year or two to cut costs and then transferring to a typical four-year college. You’ll be able to complete general education requirements, minimize your debt, and potentially graduate sooner.
Consider In-State Public Schools, But Keep Your Options Open
Going to college in your home state can mean lower tuition at public state schools and money saved on flights and transportation.
While pursuing in-state schools can be a great strategy, don’t rule out private and out-of-state colleges just yet. Some public colleges recruit for “out of state scholarships” where they offer in-state tuition to talented out-of-state applicants in order to gain their enrollment. Check with the state schools on your list to see if they offer any scholarship opportunities for non-residents.
While private institutions tend to have much higher tuition, they often offer great financial aid packages that can make tuition comparable to or cheaper than public schools. Be sure to explore all of your options!
Students on Verto semesters study experientially, meaning they hit the books and still have time to take in amazing views! Nearly all Verto texts are recommended in the eBook format to make for lighter baggage while you’re on the go.
Source Your Textbooks and Class Materials Creatively
Instead of buying brand new (read: expensive) books and class materials, you can buy/rent textbooks second hand, get PDFs for books online or take out from the school library when possible. Websites like CampusBooks and BookFinder scour the web for you to find the cheapest deals on new and used books.
You can also ask upperclassmen if they already have those books from previous semesters. If you don’t know who to ask, you can post on your class Facebook page or reach out to peers in your major.
Take advantage of campus book stores’ and online book vendors’ “book buy back” deals where you can get money back if you return your book in good condition at the end of the semester.
Utilize Advanced Placement (AP) Classes During High School
High scores on AP exams often translate to college credits that could help you graduate sooner, which means saving money on a semester or more of tuition. Depending on the course and the university, an AP class can sometimes even count toward more than one requirement. You’ll want to check which AP’s are accepted at your universities of interest ahead of time.
Similarly, you can also take community college courses in the summers during high school to knock out some general ed requirements (and help you graduate college faster). There are even programs where you can earn a certificate or associates degree while still in high school. But again, be sure to check that these credits will be transferable at your university.
Attend Summer School to Earn Credits at a Reduced Rate
While prices vary from university to university, summer school courses often come out to be cheaper than the cost of a course during the school year. Tuition rates for summer school are typically charged on a per-course or per-credit-hour basis rather than a blanket tuition fee. When you take summer school classes, you can have the same quality education on the campus you love but for a much cheaper rate.
It’s all dollars and cents! Well, sort of. When studying abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to learn to budget and to become an expert in converting from one currency to another, a useful skill in an increasingly global world!
See If Your Tuition Might Be Tax Deductible
Depending on your income, you could be eligible to receive tax credits for up to $4,000 for your education fees. Expenses covered under the deduction can include anything related to coursework including tuition, books, supplies, and equipment. Look into the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Tax Credit or speak with your CPA to learn more.
On a Verto semester, you save a lot: time, money, and hassle. One single application gives you access to a college counseling team and 50+ partner colleges, and you’ll save time with an epic first year of college that will help you narrow your focus and find your purpose so you can continue college with confidence.
Enroll with Verto For an Epic Freshman Semester Abroad
A semester with Verto is an incredibly affordable option compared to typical college tuitions. While all of our semesters are affordable, we are thrilled to offer an Opportunity Grant which can reduce the cost of our Latin America Semester to as low as 5k. That is half of the average public in-state rate and a fifth of the average private school tuition! Learn more about the Opportunity Grant and our commitment to affordability and accessibility here.
When you spend your freshman semester with Verto, you experience a one-of-a-kind, hands-on education you could never have in a typical college classroom (for an even better price)! What better way to complete your general education requirements than from a guesthouse in Fiji or your apartment in Italy?!
At Verto, we believe that international education is not only incredibly beneficial but also completely do-able. We want our students to find the perfect freshman year for them. We’d love to chat if you want to learn more about how we can make a semester abroad possible for you.