Making College More Affordable: 7 Pre-College Tips

There’s no arguing that college is expensive. And with tuition going up every year, the increasingly higher cost of college continues to be a challenge to most American families. Every year, students across America stress over where and how they are going to get the funds needed to cover their college costs.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do, before and after joining college, to offset the high cost of tuition. In an interview with Fox26, Bill Staib, President and Co-founder of College Raptor, offered some practical and do-able tips that can help make college more affordable.

7 Things to Do Before Starting College

1. Compare prices of colleges

Spending some time checking college costs and comparing the costs at different colleges will give you a better idea of how much you’re going to need. This will give you a baseline around which to plan a budget.

When comparison shopping for colleges, it’s important to understand the difference between sticker price and net price. Sticker price is the cost of tuition that’s published on the school’s website. But that’s not necessarily what you will pay. You’ll pay the net price, which is usually much lower as it takes into account the financial aid you’ll receive through scholarships, grants, and federal student loans.

Every college website has a net price calculator that lets you quickly and easily determine how much it will actually cost you to attend.


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2.  Consider attending community college

In the search for 4-year colleges, many students overlook community college, which is a big mistake. Attending community college will cost you a fraction of what it costs to attend a 4-year private university. If you complete 2 years in community college and then transfer to a private university to complete the next 2 years, you’ll still earn a bachelor’s degree but at a much lower cost. It’s a win-win situation for you.

3. Earn college credits in high school

There are many ways to earn college credits in high school, which can put you way ahead when you start college. In addition to the academic head start, earning college credits in high school allows you graduate faster so you pay less toward college tuition.

These are some of the ways you can earn college credit while still in high school:

4. Search for scholarships

Various organizations, from the federal government and large multinational companies to non-profit organizations and local businesses, offer scholarships to college students. These may be for varying amounts and awarded to students for academic or extracurricular accomplishments or because they belong to certain demographics.

All scholarship awards are free money. You don’t have to return any award money you win, neither do you pay interest on it. What’s more, there are no restrictions on the number of scholarships you can apply to or the amount of money you can win. The more award money you win, the more affordable college will become for you.

5. Explore in-state college first

Did you know that you’ll pay lower tuition fees if you choose to study in a college in your state of residence? That’s because most states subsidize the higher education of students who choose an in-state college.

Every state in the U.S. has a number of reputed colleges offering a wide and varied curriculum. It’s definitely worth exploring the schools in your state of residence first before looking at colleges in other states.

 6. Explore colleges that offer free tuition

Several colleges across the U.S. offer free tuition to students who meet certain criteria. Each school sets their own requirements and terms and conditions to qualify for free tuition. For example, military institutions extend this offer to students who have served in their branch for a certain number of years. Other schools may offer free tuition to students pursuing a particular degree or major. Still others may require students to complete a specified number of hours in community service.

It’s worth spending some time checking out the eligibility criteria of different tuition-free colleges. If you meet the requirements for free tuition, you’ll be spared the years of stress associated with student loan debt.

7. Apply for FAFSA early

You must file the FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – to qualify for any type of federal financial aid. This includes need-based grants, merit-based scholarships, low-cost federal student loans, and parent PLUS loans.

With effect from 2023, the new FAFSA will be available in December 2023 for 2024-2025 academic year. The new deadline for receiving FAFSA applications for 2024-2025 is June 30, 2024.  Although this gives you ample time to submit the form, it’s always better to do this as early as possible. The federal government reserves a set amount to be disbursed as financial aid to college students. This is allocated to students on a first-come first-served basis. The earlier you submit your FAFSA, the higher your chances of getting the maximum amount of financial aid you qualify for.

Two important things to keep in mind regarding the FAFSA:

  1. You MUST submit this application regardless of whether or not you think you qualify. The funds you receive, however small, can help to fund the gap.
  2. The FAFSA is valid for one year only. You need to submit a new application every academic year with your updated family finances. How much financial aid you qualify for may differ from one year to the next depending on your family’s financial circumstances.

The key is to making college more affordable is to start early and be consistent in your efforts. Starting early and taking consistent action gives you sufficient time to accumulate smaller savings, which can be used to offset various college costs.

Are you ready to search for scholarships? Use College Raptor’s scholarship search tool to find scholarships and get started making college more affordable for you.


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