Paying For College - 5 Tips on Avoiding Tuition Sticker Shock

Congratulations, you just got into college. But now, you may be wondering how you're going to pay for it. The good news is that even though college expenses are on the rise, there are many options out there to help you. In fact, according to the College Board, the actual amount most students pay for college is significantly lower than the published tuition and fees. Whether you're going to a state college, fashion school, or Ivy League university, here are steps you can take to make college an affordable reality.

1. Share your good news with everyone. When you're accepted to college, announce this news to relatives, mentors, former teachers, and anyone who would be proud of your achievement. Along with this good news, ask these special people to invest financially in your future. Chances are, they will be happy for you, and happy to help you. Make it as easy as possible for them. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope. Or make your announcement via e-mail, and create a web page with a PayPal link that allows people to contribute online with a credit card.

2. Seek out scholarships from colleges. Remember, a college that has accepted you really wants you to attend, and very likely has free money available to you. Be proactive in contacting the school's financial aid office early, so they will know you as a person rather than a registration number.

3. Search the internet for scholarships. Many sites like and are one-stop hubs for scholarships from various businesses, community organizations, and special interest groups. Funds are awarded based on an array of criteria like minority background, religious faith, where you live, and even what industry your parents work in. You may be surprised at how many scholarships you qualify for.

4. Apply for federal loans. Federal loans have the best benefits and lowest rates. You can borrow up to $5,500 with the government Stafford loan, and, your parents can borrow up to the full cost of attendance, minus any other aid received, with the PLUS loan.

5. Try to graduate sooner. The quicker you graduate, the less money you will spend on your degree - and the sooner you start earning an income. Shaving even one semester off your time in college will save you thousands of dollars. Two-year degree programs like culinary school or fashion design school also fast track students into the workforce.

As a college student, you'll have plenty on your mind. Hopefully with these strategies, how you pay for tuition won't be one of them.