How to Get an Affordable College Education

Three Parts:Choosing the Right College or UniversitySeeking Out Sources of FundingFinding Other Ways to Save Money

With today's job market the way it is, a college education is more important than ever. Many jobs require a minimum of an associate's or bachelor's degree in order to qualify. Getting a college degree doesn't have to result in a lifetime of crushing debt. Learning how to get an affordable college education can help you or your family have a promising professional career without going broke in the process.

Part 1
Choosing the Right College or University

  1. Image titled Make a Voicemail Greeting Step 1
    Apply to a lot of schools. Applying to as many schools as you can will greatly increase the chances of getting a lower-cost or even a free college education. While it can get expensive to apply to dozens of colleges, you should look at the average cost to submit an application and apply to as many places as you can afford.[1]
    • Studies have shown that if you have a lot of colleges to choose from, you're more likely to receive more financial aid. If you're a good student, colleges will want to draw you to them.
    • Apply to a variety of different school types. Try public universities as well as private colleges that are known to offer decent financial aid (which you can usually find information about online).
  2. Image titled Get Paid to Go to College Step 12
    Consider starting at a community college and transferring. Many students begin their collegiate studies at a two-year community college. After two years you can earn an associate's degree, then decide whether to transfer to a four-year college. You'll be able to earn a bachelor's degree in less time since you're coming in with a two-year degree and all the course credit that you took.[2]
    • Community college tuition is typically much cheaper than the tuition at a four-year college or university.
    • Most colleges will let you transfer in some outside credit, but there are often restrictions. For example, you may have to have above a minimum grade in each course, and there may be a cap on how many credits you can transfer.
    • Find out whether four-year colleges and universities in your area accept transfer credit and how much they're willing to let you transfer.
  3. Image titled Write a Personal Statement for an Undergraduate Application Step 2
    Opt for in-state tuition. While you may prefer to move away from home, staying within your state can save you a lot of cash. Consider applying to state universities to take advantage of your in-state residency, or establish residency somewhere else before applying to schools in that state.[3]
    • Residents of a state can get tuition rates significantly cheaper than out-of-state students would get. At the University of Texas at Austin, for example, in-state tuition is almost $24,000 cheaper than out-of-state tuition.
    • Public state universities are the most likely schools to offer deep discounts for in-state residents.
    • If you're planning on moving out of state, either for a better school or for unrelated reasons, establish your residency at least 12 months before classes would start. Some states and schools require even longer to establish residency, so check online well in advance.
  4. Image titled Write a Personal Statement for Grad School Step 4
    Look into accelerated learning or fast-track degree programs. Some colleges and universities will help you earn your degree as quickly as possible. There are a number of ways to do this, though it will typically require more vigorous work on your part to make it happen.[4]
    • Some colleges will accept advanced placement credits from high school.
    • Most schools let you opt to take summer classes, which can help shave off a semester or two from your estimated completion time.
    • If you take heavy course loads during the regular school year, you can also trim off some of the time it would typically take to complete your studies.

Part 2
Seeking Out Sources of Funding

  1. Image titled Get Paid to Go to College Step 13
    Apply for scholarships and grants. When you've settled on a school, you should apply for any and all scholarships and grants that you're eligible for. These can help significantly defray the cost of tuition, and may even be applicable to other expenses like books or room and board.[5]
    • Apply to any and all scholarships offered by the school you choose.
    • You may also be eligible for outside scholarships from various foundations and organizations.[6]
  2. Image titled Get Paid to Go to College Step 1
    Ask your chosen school's financial aid office for more assistance. You may find yourself disappointed with the amount of funding being offered after getting some financial aid offers from a couple of schools. If this happens, try reaching out to the financial aid offices at those schools to see if they can offer you anything better. It may not always work, but it never hurts to try petitioning for more financial aid.[7]
    • Write a letter to the financial aid office at any school(s) you're considering and describe your finances, family situation, and any other important factors affecting your ability to pay for college.
    • Let the financial aid office know about any other offers you've received from other schools, and stress that you'd really prefer to attend their institution if they can offer you better funding.
    • Don't be rude or demanding, but offer a genuine request with courtesy and sincerity.
  3. Image titled Restate a Thesis Step 7
    Submit your application for federal student aid. Whether you get a scholarship or not, you should still apply for federal student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available online and will help determine your eligibility for additional sources of funding, such as work-study programs and student loans.[8]
    • Make sure you complete your FAFSA application before your chosen school's priority deadline to ensure you get the most financial aid possible.[9]
    • In addition to your school's deadline, you'll need to make sure you meet both state and federal deadlines for completing and submitting your FAFSA materials.[10]
  4. Image titled Do a Research Paper Step 4
    Consider a public service program. Depending on your chosen career path, you may be able to knock out some or all of your student debt through public service programs. The amount of time you'll have to spend in public service may vary, depending on the program you enroll in and the type of work you'll be doing.[11]
    • Many teachers are able to pay off their student debt by working post-graduate teaching assignments with in-need school districts.
    • Some law school graduates may be able to join a public service program where student debt is paid off by working as a staffer for a member of Congress.
    • Find out more about these and other federal programs by searching online or contacting a representative of the program.
  5. Image titled Register to Vote Online Step 2
    Look into military service. Military service has been a long-standing means of getting an affordable college education for many individuals. You can get a tuition-free college education and living stipend in exchange for a commitment to military service, and you may be able to customize your military career to meet your professional goals.[12]
    • The terms and length of your service will vary, depending on the branch you enlist in and the program of study you choose.
  6. Image titled Turn a Volunteer Position Into a Job Step 8
    Work a paying job during the school year or between semesters. Depending on your ability to multitask, you may be able to work while you attend school full-time. However, this can easily get in the way of your studies and make it difficult to balance your time. If that's the case, you can still work during summer and winter break to make a little extra cash between semesters.
    • Find work nearby so that you don't have to worry about commuting from school to work or vice versa.
    • Look for jobs with flexible hours. Let your employer know up front that you're a student and that your education comes first.
  7. Image titled Teach a Child the Value of Money Step 9
    Ask family members for assistance. If you're really in need of money for college you can always ask other family members for assistance. Some people may be reluctant to ask for help. However, if your family is well-off it can reduce the amount of aid you're eligible for, so it may not hurt to ask your parents or grandparents about the possibility of getting some assistance.[13]
    • Ask tactfully and politely. Never demand money or assistance from anyone.
    • Say something like, "You know I hate to have to ask for help, but it would really mean a lot to me if I could attend _____ to study _____ and become a _____. Is there any way you might be able to help me go to college?"

Part 3
Finding Other Ways to Save Money

  1. Image titled Settle Into Your First Apartment Step 1
    Look into living off-campus. Living away from campus is usually cheaper than living in a dorm or on-campus apartment, but not always. In some high-rent cities, the on-campus options may be more affordable. The tradeoff is that you're not on campus for all the convenience and socialization that comes with living in the dorms, but you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by renting your own place.[14]
    • Assess your living options, both on-campus and off-campus, by comparing dorm costs to the average advertised rent price off-campus. Then choose the less-expensive option.
    • You can find apartment listings online or in your local newspaper.
    • Look around at different neighborhoods and different types of housing to get a feel for what's available in your price range.
  2. Image titled Size a Mountain Bike Step 8
    Cut down on transportation expenses. One easy way to make living off-campus a little cheaper is to find alternate ways of commuting. The biggest downside to living off-campus is the commute, so by making it cheaper (or free) to get to and from class, you can pocket that extra cash and put it towards your rent, tuition, or book expenses.[15]
    • Walk, bike, or take public transportation whenever possible.
    • If you live with or near other students, ask them about carpooling together. You can take turns driving or chip in gas money to a designated carpool driver so that everyone shares transportation costs.
  3. Image titled Get out of Your Apartment Lease Step 14
    Consider having roommates. Having roommates can help defray the cost of renting an apartment or home. However, living with other people also has its disadvantages, including a loss of privacy and a potentially noisy living situation. If you need a cheap place to live, though, splitting the cost with one or more other people may help you save.[16]
    • Find roommates you can trust. You'll want to know that your roommates won't throw wild parties during finals week or invite untrustworthy people into your home.
    • If you have people you're already friends with, ask them about living together. If not, make sure you meet your potential roommates in advance and try to get to know them a little before moving in together.
  4. Image titled Make Money as a College Student Step 48
    Save money on textbooks. Even if your tuition is paid for, you'll still have to worry about the cost of textbooks. Some books cost over $100 each and will only be used for one semester. Instead of paying out hundreds of dollars for your course texts, find ways of getting your books cheaper or even for free.
    • Buying used textbooks is a great way to cut down on costs. You can get the same textbook for significantly less than a new book would cost - just make sure it's the most up-to-date edition that you need for class.
    • Consider renting books instead of buying them. Some bookstores and online retailers allow you to borrow textbooks for a semester and then return them, and you can also find textbooks for rent at the school library.
  5. Image titled Add Humor to a Graduation Speech Step 14
    Complete your studies and earn a degree. It may sound obvious, but the most expensive way to get an education is to leave college without a degree.[17] If you're going to be saddled with any kind of debt, you might as well get your money's worth by earning a degree. That degree can unlock many career opportunities for you in the future, and you'll be more likely to escape debt by landing a higher-paying job than if you don't get a degree.
    • Talk to career counselors and other specialists on campus if you're having trouble keeping your grades up or staying in school. These professionals can help you develop and stick to a plan that leads to graduation.


  • One option for saving money while living on campus is to apply to be a residential assistant. They often earn free room and possibly free board or a stipend.

Article Info

Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education