Let’s face it: for most students attending college, it is going to be expensive. Even before you’ve chosen a school, you’ll spend money on application fees, campus visits, and other college-prep expenses. But there are steps you can take now to help you minimize the costs of applying to and attending college. Below, I have shared some tips to minimize college costs during the application process–all it takes is a little research and planning. Then, you can spend your money on really important stuff, like T-shirts and other swag from the college that finally wins your enrollment.
Trim Your Travel Costs
The logistics of multiple school visits can be expensive and exhausting. If you have a long list of colleges that you are considering, visiting each one before making a decision can be costly. This is particularly true if your favorite colleges are far away from home and require several days of travel. If you plan to bring your parents along, your travel expenses can add up quickly. Will your parents have to take off work to go with you? Do you have pets that will need to be boarded while you are away?
Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of your time and money:
- Wait for the school to come to you.
Instead of traveling to several schools in different towns, find out when reps from the schools on your short list will be visiting your town. Even if you have to travel a short distance to attend a large college fair, it can be worth your while. You can save time and money by making contact with several college reps at a single event.
- Compress your itinerary.
If all the colleges that have caught your eye won’t be present at a single college fair, you may need to do a little creative planning. Perhaps you could attend a college fair in a town located near one of your listed schools. Or, could you make one trip that allows you to visit several schools or meet with representatives over just a few days? Pull out a map and start making phone calls; you might find a central location from which to launch your multi-campus tour.
- Let technology keep you connected.
Once you have introduced yourself, at a college fair or other event, to representatives from the colleges that have your interest, send an email or call them to maintain contact. This will help the people you’ve met to remember you and shows them that you are still interested in attending their school.
- Only visit the top contenders.
Some students choose to wait until after they’ve been accepted to a school to make an in-person visit. This allows them to invest their time and money in reviewing only those schools that are a real possibility of becoming their alma mater.
Lower Your Tuition Costs by Planning Ahead
Of course, campus visits are just the first of many expenses that you’ll face once you’ve chosen a college and begin attending. But there are ways to minimize college costs in tuition too. Again, planning ahead can help you to save a lot of money.
Here are three things you can do well before enrollment to minimize college costs during the application process:
- Research scholarships sooner rather than later.
Many businesses, organizations, and even individuals offer scholarships using their own criteria. Anything, from your hometown chamber of commerce to the job you had over summer break, can be the basis for an award. For example, your local golf club may have a scholarship solely offered to former caddies. Some businesses offer small scholarships for students who have participated in specific extracurriculars or clubs.
Finding out about these opportunities as a senior may be too late. Begin researching potential scholarships now to find out if you might be able to meet the criteria. You can get started by visiting CollegeScholarships.org. Who knows? That summer job as a camp counselor or caddy might be more profitable than you thought!
- Invest in having the best application possible.
Next, a strong application is often the key to obtaining scholarships or grants from colleges, so keep this fact in mind as you fill out your college application. If you’d like a little extra reassurance that your application presents you at your best, submit it for review at Admissions Checkup.
The Admissions Checkup staff is made up of former admissions officers who review hundreds of applications each year. Our team applies their years of experience to judge your application with a critical eye. Receiving criticism from a group of strangers may sound unpleasant, but their job is to help you eliminate any flaws in your application before you send it to your dream school.
- Find a tuition-free favorite.
Finally, don’t despair if the scholarships you are hoping for don’t come through. In the past decade, a growing number of colleges have gone tuition-free. As this CNN report details, several states now sponsor tuition-free programs for traditional and returning students. There are also independent institutions that allow students from any state to attend their schools tuition-free.
If you choose a tuition-free school, you may still need to cover room and board, but your tuition savings will be significant. To find the most up-to-date lists and reviews of tuition free schools, just conduct a web search. You’ll find several articles and reports, such as this one at NerdWallet.com, that provide details.
Start Planning Your Future Today
Regardless of where you attend school, your college years will be the start of an exciting new phase in your life. Start planning now to make the most of your time and money. Read our college application help for more tips on making the most of the college application process!