The cost of education at a four-year U.S. institution has always been drastically high, but the topic of affordability has never been more important than it is today – especially in a world stricken with the long-lasting economic effects brought upon by COVID-19. We all know that we do not live in a fair world, but does acknowledging this fact also mean bowing down to it? I think not. Those who know me well enough are well-aware of my passion for college access for all, regardless of the socioeconomic backgrounds they were born into. Among the various student profiles I work with, ranging from low-income to affluent kiddos, there is one group of students who seems to be the most disadvantaged: the middle-class students who are not rich enough to pay full fare but who are not needy enough to qualify for need-based aid at some colleges. If you are a member of that group, then you have arrived at the right address. I have some tips that will help you lower the college costs, which will automatically allow you to attend the college of your choice, given that you are academically admissible. Let’s get started then, shall we?
- Explore dual enrollment opportunities while you are still in high school: Some high schools let students take classes at a local college or community college for college credit. This will give you a chance to finish your required college credits sooner than planned so that you will be paying much less to obtain a college degree. Talk to your high school counselor to inquire whether this is an option at your high school.
- Check out your community college: Many students and families hate to hear this alternative with the assumption that attending a community college has the negative connotation that suggests demeaning their child. On the contrary, it might actually be the way to attend a very good college for a fraction of the cost! You heard that right! Some community colleges have what we call “articulation agreements” that are in place with some selective four-year colleges. This means that after a successful completion of the Associate’s degree at the community college, a student can transfer into a top-tier college if certain GPA and course requirements are met. Visit your community college’s website to see a list of the colleges they have articulation agreements with. You might be pleasantly surprised to see that you can afford to go to your dream college at a much lower cost after all.
- Consider skipping dorm life: Although many colleges will require you to live in the dorms on campus during your first year, they will let you live off campus in the consequent years. If you decide to go to a nearby college in your home state, take into consideration the possibility of living at home and commuting to campus to attend your classes. If your college is far away from home, then weigh the pros of renting an off-campus apartment and splitting the recurring costs (such as rent, utilities, groceries, etc…) with your roommates.
- Stay away from the campus bookstore: Seriously! As tempting as it might be to buy a brand new textbook, you have no idea how much you can save simply by buying used books online or renting. Check out Amazon to see whether you can find a used version of the required textbooks or to locate any rental options. If you cannot fight the urge to enter the pristine campus bookstore, at least ask the store associate if they have rental textbooks – more often than not, they will. The cost of a single textbook might not seem like it will break the bank, but when you will yourself having to purchase several books required for your classes, it will add up by the minute.
- Get a part-time job: College will give you the luxury of scheduling your classes, which will further give you the flexibility to get a part-time job. Every little bit helps, so seek every opportunity to work and make some pocket money.
- If you must borrow, exhaust the federal student loans first: With a low fixed interest rate, standard terms and conditions, as well as flexible repayment options, federal loans are the most reliable and responsible method of financing your education. Since they are distributed by the U.S. Department of Education, they require the completion and submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – AKA the FAFSA. If you are wondering what would be an ideal amount to borrow, you can read my past blog post “How Much Student Loan Debt is Too Much?” here. If you are seeking a more in-depth walkthrough of the financial aid application timeline, you can check out “Demystifying the Financial Aid Application Process” here.
At EdMission Possible, we keep our students in the center of our services. With our Student-Centered College CounselingTM model, we make sure that our students are prepared for college and beyond not only academically but also financially. The road might be rocky, but we are here to help you find your path. Call us today to inquire our college planning services and let’s decide how we can help.
Happy college planning!
Burcak Deniz Cakir
Independent Educational Consultant, Founder, and President | EdMission Possible
Burcak Deniz Cakir has a B.A. in Foreign Language Education, an M.A. in English Language Teaching, and an M.B.A., all of which have laid the solid foundation for her professional experiences as an educator. She has completed the College Counseling Program at UCLA, which is known to be the most prestigious certificate program in the profession. She has previously taught English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) in Turkey and in the U.S. at Virginia Tech, Harcum College, Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick Campuses), and Pace University. Having taught EFL/ESL at the college level for over 20 years, Burcak can communicate effectively with college-age students from different countries. She is bilingual in Turkish and English. Her extensive experience with international students from many countries including but not limited to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and China has given her the opportunity to understand their unique problems that domestic students may not be facing throughout the college admissions process, such as but not limited to extra testing requirements (TOEFL, IELTS), the translation of high school transcripts and recommendation letters, different financial forms and statements required, visa issues, being homesick, culture shock, etc.
Burcak is an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a Voting Member of the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC). She currently lives in Edison, New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her four-legged son. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her family, reading (lots!) about college admissions and college essays, watching her favorite movies, getting lost in design magazines, and decorating her house.