College has grown more expensive over the years, but there are also many new ways to save money. Your challenging high school classes, your life experiences, and your computer can help you get a college degree for much less than the "sticker price." Utilize several of these money-saving strategies, and you will be well on your way to meeting your educational and financial goals.
First, try to test out of as many classes as possible. Most people are familiar with the AP classes offered by many high schools, but there is another alternative. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers exams in a wide range of subjects, including accounting and psychology in addition to the usual foreign languages, math, and English. Most colleges will give credit for acceptable scores on CLEP exams, but be sure to learn exactly which exams are accepted by the college you wish to attend. CLEP exams typically cost around $80, which is less than the cost of a textbook for most classes. Try to take the tests at the school to which you want the credits applied, otherwise you may have to pay fees to transfer credits.
Another money saving strategy is to take online classes. You will have to pay a "technology fee" at many schools, but you will save transportation costs and room and board if the college is some distance from home. Most schools have computer discount programs to help you get an adequate computer for online study. Online classes work well for students disciplined enough to work without much supervision. Schedule time for an online class just as you would for a regular class.
Consider a community college for all those introductory classes. Community college is not as prestigious, but does it really matter for Freshman Composition or College Algebra? You can save money by transferring to a four-year institution for those important upper level classes in your major. Be sure to plan with an advisor to be sure you are taking courses that will transfer to the four-year school of your choice.
When it comes to textbooks, try to contact your professors before making a purchase. Ask whether the books listed at the bookstore are all required texts. You may learn that one of the books is just for occasional reference, in which case you may be able to use a reserve copy at the library as needed. If a course is outside your major, meaning you probably won't want to keep the book, consider renting the textbook from Chegg.com
Finally, don't overlook the small things. For example, if you are covered by your parent's health insurance, you should be able to file a waiver form and avoid paying for the college health plan. Some schools give small discounts for registering early, so watch those deadlines. Plan ahead and enjoy the journey as you make yourself a more educated person.