Being financially prepared for college can seem overwhelming, but it's never too early to take certain steps in high school that can help you prepare both academically and financially. Here are six tips on ways you can reduce the need to borrow for college costs.
1. Fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible.
You can fill out the application before you’ve decided which college you’ll be attending. It also allows you to add multiple college selections when applying for FAFSA. Doing so allows you to weigh the aid offered between schools.
2. Get a job and start saving early.
One of the best ways you can get money for college is by getting a part-time job after classes, on the weekends, or even on school breaks. Not only will this help you cover college costs, but is allows you to gain a sense of responsibility and add professional experience to your resume. Once you get that part-time job, don’t forget to actually save your money. Create a monthly budget and determine how much of each paycheck will go toward your college expenses. Examples of part-time jobs you could do are babysitting, on-campus jobs, retail positions, or working for your family’s business.
3. Prepare for college entrance exams.
Prepare for the SAT or ACT so that you can get the highest score possible and challenge yourself to get the highest grades in each of your classes. Don’t forget about participating in extracurricular activities as well. Colleges and scholarships look for well-rounded students; if you can get multiple scholarships and grants, the cost of your college education can drastically decrease. Sign up for two or three activities that you take an interest in and excel at.
4. Take college classes in high school.
Many high schools offer advance placement (AP) or other college leveled courses. Various colleges will offer you course credit in exchange for a high score on the AP exam offered at the end of the year. This is particularly good for general education courses such as math, science, language, or writing courses. Depending on how many AP classes you are able to take, you may be able to skip an entire semester of courses, taking off the total cost of your education. AP classes may also improve your odds of receiving merit-based scholarships.
5. Consider various options.
Obtaining a degree from a private school may seem to hold more value, but is it worth falling into debt? Going to a community college, and then transferring over to the college of your dreams, is an affordable way to start your college career. Community colleges cost a lot less and allow you to take courses for a year or two before transferring to your dream college and paying their higher tuition. Consider local and in-state schools – public universities tend to be more affordable, especially in the state you live. Just be sure to check that the courses will transfer before going this route. Some universities may even waive your entire first 2 years of a Bachelors program if you already have your Associates Degree.
6. Apply for scholarships and grants.
It’s never to early to start applying for scholarships, many deadlines can be as early as the end of your junior year in high school. Some schools offer scholarships to students based on GPA and extracurricular achievements, but there are many scholarships out there for students who meet other criteria. For example, some banks or credit unions offer scholarships, your parent’s employers, or organizations in the field or industry you’re interested in studying.
Members, don’t forget that HFS has a scholarship for graduating Big Island high school seniors. Be sure to keep an eye on our blog, your quarterly Ka Mamalu newsletter and email inbox for details in early 2018!