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Don't let cost stop your college dreams! Learn how grads slashed tuition, scored scholarships, & saved on living expenses. Debt-free future awaits!

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Creative Ways to Cut College Costs: Tips from Graduates Who Did It

15 February, 2024

College is expensive. That’s a fact. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2023-2024 academic year was $10,560 for public four-year institutions, $37,650 for private nonprofit four-year institutions, and $16,580 for public two-year institutions. And that’s not even counting room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and other expenses.

But don’t let these numbers scare you away from pursuing your higher education goals. There are many ways to reduce the cost of college and make it more affordable for you and your family. And who better to learn from than the graduates who have done it themselves?

In this article, we’ll share some creative and practical tips from alumni who managed to cut their college costs and graduate with less debt. These tips cover everything from applying for scholarships and grants, to choosing the right school and major, to saving money on living expenses and textbooks. Whether you’re a high school senior, a college freshman, or a returning student, you’ll find something useful in this article. So let’s get started!

Apply for Scholarships and Grants

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: scholarships and grants are free money that you don’t have to pay back. They can significantly lower your tuition bill and reduce the amount of loans you need to take out. There are thousands of scholarships and grants available for all kinds of students, based on academic merit, financial need, extracurricular activities, community service, personal background, and more. You just have to find them and apply for them.

One graduate who did this successfully is Alex, who attended a private liberal arts college in New York. He says:

“I applied for every scholarship and grant I could find, both from the college and from outside sources. I used websites like Fastweb,, and Niche to search for opportunities that matched my profile and interests. I also asked my high school counselor, teachers, and mentors for recommendations and advice. I spent a lot of time writing essays, filling out forms, and gathering documents, but it paid off. I ended up getting over $30,000 in scholarships and grants per year, which covered more than half of my tuition.”

Alex’s tip: Start early and be persistent. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for scholarships and grants. Start researching and applying as soon as possible, preferably in your junior year of high school or earlier. Keep track of deadlines and requirements, and follow up with the organizations that offer them. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the first few scholarships you apply for. Keep applying until you find the ones that work for you.

Choose the Right School and Major

Another way to cut your college costs is to choose the right school and major for your goals and budget. This may involve doing some research, comparing different options, and making some trade-offs. But it can also save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

One graduate who did this wisely is Beth, who attended a public university in California. She says:

“I knew I wanted to major in computer science, but I also knew that some schools were more expensive and competitive than others. I decided to go to a public university that had a good reputation and a strong program in my field, but also offered in-state tuition and generous financial aid. I also took some courses at a community college during the summer to transfer credits and graduate faster. I ended up paying less than $10,000 per year for my education, and I got a great job right after graduation.”

Beth’s tip: Think about your return on investment. Don’t just choose a school or a major based on prestige or popularity. Think about how much it will cost you and how much it will benefit you in the future. Consider factors like tuition, fees, living expenses, graduation rate, job placement, salary potential, and personal satisfaction. Look for schools and majors that offer a good balance of quality and affordability, and that align with your interests and goals.

Save Money on Living Expenses and Textbooks

The last way to cut your college costs is to save money on living expenses and textbooks. These are often overlooked, but they can add up quickly and eat into your budget. There are many ways to reduce these costs and still have a comfortable and enjoyable college experience.

One graduate who did this creatively is Chris, who attended a private university in Massachusetts. He says:

“I saved money on living expenses by living off-campus with some friends. We rented a cheap apartment near the school and split the rent and utilities. We also cooked our own meals, shopped at thrift stores, and used public transportation. We still had fun, but we didn’t spend a lot of money on things we didn’t need. I also saved money on textbooks by buying used books online, renting books from the library, or borrowing books from classmates. I also used online resources like Khan Academy, Coursera, and YouTube to supplement my learning.”

Chris’s tip: Be frugal and resourceful. Don’t fall into the trap of overspending on living expenses and textbooks. Look for ways to cut costs and find alternatives. Be smart about your spending habits and budget your money wisely. Use the internet and your network to find deals and discounts. And remember, you don’t have to sacrifice your quality of life or your education to save money. You just have to be creative and practical.


College is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be unaffordable. There are many ways to cut your college costs and graduate with less debt. In this article, we shared some tips from graduates who did it themselves, such as applying for scholarships and grants, choosing the right school and major, and saving money on living expenses and textbooks. These tips are not exhaustive, but they are effective and proven. If you follow them, you can make your college dream a reality without breaking the bank.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family who are planning to go to college or are already in college. And if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and good luck with your college journey!

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