Posted by Julia Wasson

Oct 7, 2014 7:32:00 AM

According to Gallup’s recent annual Economy and Personal Finance poll, more than one in five adults aged 18 to 29 mentions “paying for college” as the biggest financial problem their families are dealing with.

Part of the college admissions process is figuring out how to pay for college tuition. Though college is becoming increasingly expensive, tuition assistance is available, as are simple ways to reduce college costs.

The key to paying for college is to start planning (and saving money) early. As you begin to search for student loans and tuition assistance, consider the following tips to jumpstart your plan:

  1. Start saving money as soon as possible.

    Even if your teen is in the sophomore year of high school, it’s not too late to start putting money away for college tuition. Setting aside earnings from part-time summer jobs will help your teen feel invested in his or her college education. If your student only has two more years of high school ahead of her, look into a high-yield savings account to benefit from a higher interest rate.

  2. Ensure your student scores his or her best on the ACT or SAT test.

    To receive tuition assistance through financial aid, colleges consider how the applicant scored on one or both college entrance exams. Colleges want well-rounded students with the best test scores, and that’s why they award high-scoring students with better financial aid packages.

    Depending on the applicant’s starting score, even a 10-point increase on the ACT or a 50-point increase on the SAT could reduce college costs by hundreds or thousands of dollars. A high score on the PSAT can earn your teen a National Merit Scholarship or Letter of Commendation, both of which can substantially boost his financial awards. Quality test-prep classes are proven to help students improve their test scores.

  3. Don’t rule out a college because you think it’s too expensive.

    When it comes to pricier schools, paying for college at a high level may seem totally impossible. However, the higher the cost of tuition, the more financial aid your student could receive — especially from private colleges. Schools have increased their financial aid budgets in response to a down economy and families that have become increasingly cost conscious.

  4. Look for deals on college tuition assistance.

    Both merit-based scholarships and need-based scholarships are available to deserving students. And there’s a whole weird and wonderful world of scholarships filed under “Other.” They offer tuition assistance for a range of interesting reasons, from left-handedness to winning an annual create-a-greeting-card contest. Encourage your teen to apply to some of these offbeat scholarships; a few thousand dollars here and there add up to a smaller burden of debt upon graduation.

  5. Earn college credits while still in high school.

    Many colleges award credits for high advanced placement (AP) exam scores, so encourage your teen to take AP classes in high school if he or she is ready for more challenging coursework. Your child may also earn college credits by participating in dual enrollment classes or by taking a College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Some students have cut a year off of their college tuition through these three avenues of accruing credits.

Paying for college is a major factor to consider during the college admissions process. These five tips are just a few of the most effective ways to reduce college costs. The fact is, there are many ways to pay for college tuition; a little research can help you identify the programs that are right for your child and family.

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