It’s time to start anew semester. I decided to update a post on getting the most financial aid. If you have any suggestions, please leave some tips in the comments.

How to Reduce Student Loans

  • Consider using CLEP to reduce costs.

I used my college’s tuition prices to figure the savings from using CLEP before and this is what I came up with:


CLEP In-State Out-State
$400.00 $ 3,264.00 $ 8,874.00

Here’s the amount of savings:

CLEP v In-State $2,864.00
CLEP v Out of State $8,474.00
  • Apply for FAFSA early. As soon as you can, apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid in January. Use an estimate for your taxes when you initially fill it out. Once you get your tax return back, (or your parents’) sign in online and update the information. The earlier you do this the higher your chances of receiving more grants. Contact your local school to see the deadline.
  • Be aware of individual states’ deadlines for getting financial aid. Each state has a different deadline on getting grants from them. March is a deadline that many states shoot for, so try to do it early and you’ll see that you can get more grants there. We’re talking about an extra hundred a semester to thousands of dollars.
  • Apply for scholarships. Just because you’re getting money from the government doesn’t mean you can’t try to get some scholarships. FastWeb is a popular site that searches applicable scholarships for you. You should also check out the institution’s scholarships, which are usually based on need, merit, and/or major. There are plenty of sites where you can dig for money for college. It pays to leave no stone unturned.
  • Stay local. By staying in-state, you get much cheaper rates than out of state students. In my first economic class, the professor stated that the university charged twice as much for out of state students. I just checked the tuition rates today. It’s almost three times as much as in-state now.
  • Go to a community college first. In my area, the community college is close to the local universities. Many of the university professors teach at community college. You also save 40-60% on the price per credit!
  • Maintain good grades. Most federal financial aid require a 2.0 GPA or higher to keep it. Don’t use that as a guideline; strive for a 3.0 or higher. It will help when you go to a 4 year university and are looking at their scholarships.
  • Consider work study as an option. This helps put cash on your pocket and the schedule is typically good for a college student. If you have dependents and going to college, this may not be an option, as the pay is usually $6-8/hour.  I would suggest looking at jobs from the career center.

Don’t let barriers like how much time it takes stop you. You have to invest time to increase your chance of getting a great financial aid package.

Photo Credit:  paolo màrgari

Laura Martinez
Laura Martinez