Sunday, April 29, 2012

I finally put into words my 3 "easy" steps to reduce the cost of college. YES, they do (ok, CAN) apply to you!

Here are my suggestions for cutting college costs while you wait (forever) for politicians to "do something" about the cost of college.  This advice is not for everyone (actually it is, but some of you will find reasons why it does not apply to you or think it "unrealistic").  I think taken together it is pretty solid advice.

1.  Take AP classes and AP tests at the end of the year.  If in your high school career you take and pass just 5 tests in core subjects you will have 1 semesters worth of classes out of the way.  Additional savings come in the form of no college textbooks to purchase and ONE LESS SEMESTER of living expenses.  You get to be employed (hopefully) 1 semester earlier.  You become a net earner as opposed to net spender (debtor) sooner. I wrote more about the value of AP Credits HERE.

(Note: you can take CLEP tests and accomplish the same objective above.  I know, those tests are HARD, but so is paying back thousands in student loans!)

2.  Use the community college system intelligently.  Take classes at your local C.C that DO NOT directly impact your intended major, i.e. if you are a math major take your basic English or Social Studies classes at a Community College.  Vice versa if you are an English major.  Would it be nice and convenient to take all your classes at "Full-Price University" so you get to have the full campus experience? Yes, but if you, or your parents, need to worry about cost it is SMART to strategically plan where to take your classes.  Swallow your pride and be financially responsible!

3.  Apply for scholarships and keep the following in mind.  How long does it take to apply for the average scholarship from start to finish--including writing the essay?  Let's assume 5 hours (reasonable?). 

If you apply for a $1,000 scholarship and it takes you 5 hours of "labor" to fill out the application.  Assume you get said scholarship. This means on an hourly basis your "earned" $200.00 per hour ($1,000/5hrs).  Where can you get that kind of part-time pay with your present skills?

OK, so you don't get first one.  Say you apply for a second $1,000 scholarship and it takes you 5 hours to apply for that one. Total so far you have spent 10 hrs maximum on applications for a $1,000 scholarship.  Assume you get this one.  You will have spent 10 hours to get $1,000.  That's $100.00 per hour for your time filling out applications.  Again, I ask the same question that ended the last paragraph.

How many applications do you have to fill out until you get to an hourly wage that you could reasonably expect to get paid in a "real" part-time job? Fill out applications at least until that point (MB=MC!).  The odds are in your favor! 

If you are waiting around for the powers that be to generate the inertia to decrease the cost of college for you, then you will be in debt up to your ears before you know it. 

These relatively simple steps can save you thousands (10's of thousands?).  Where am I going wrong, if I am?  Please think before responding and be constructive.  Thank you.
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