How to Keep Your College Costs as Low as Possible

We had a family come in our offices the other day with a very concerned look on their face.

I’ve seen this look before.

It’s a look of uncertainty.  The constant thought of “how the heck am I going to pay for college for all my kids?” – can do that to parents. That’s why the main goal of today’s article is to provide for you 3 of the absolute best college cost reduction strategies on the planet.

Strategy #1:  Have your child take advanced placement (AP) courses and exams in high school

AP courses are college-level courses that help students prepare for college-level work. After taking AP courses, students can take AP exams offered in the same subjects as the AP courses. If students score a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam, they can often receive college credit. Students with high grades on AP exams in many different subjects are sometimes granted a full year of course credit at the colleges where they enroll. The receipt of course credit can result in savings in college costs.

These savings can be quite large if it means that a student is able to enter into a college as a second-year student; such a student might save the cost of tuition and fees for a whole year of college.  Having your child graduate in 3 years instead of 4 or even 5 years (the current average is just over 5 years) is arguably the biggest cost reduction strategy that exists right now. And getting AP credit helps make that possible.

However, not all colleges and universities give college credit for a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam. Contact your child’s high school to find out if AP courses and exams are offered. Write to or call the admissions office of the colleges that are of interest to your child to find out if they give credit for an AP exam grade of 3 or higher.

Strategy #2:  Selecting The Best College For Your Child

This is a tricky one.  But one that can pay off big time. We have a theory here at the College Planning Network.  A theory based on a lot of observation and real life case studies.  The theory states, “every child is a star at the right college.”

What does this theory mean exactly?

In short, it means that just about every kid has a unique talent that at least one college covets.  And when a college wants to attract students with a particular unique talent, they do so with an offer of reduced tuition.

That’s why it’s so important to do everything possible to search and match up your child’s unique talent with the right college.

Strategy #3:  Negotiate for a better financial aid package.

Any financial aid package your child receives from a college is not set in stone. Just because a school offer’s you a certain package, doesn’t mean you have to accept it. In fact if you follow these 5 steps, you’ll put yourself in a better chance of getting additional free money from a college.

Step #1: Calculate your EFC (Expected Family Contribution).

Step #2:  Find out what the college’s history of giving out financial aid is.

Step #3: Compare your offer with what the college’s financial aid award history is. If you were under-awarded or given a better offer by a competing school you have an opportunity to negotiate.

Step #4:  Write a letter to negotiate explaining why the initial offer was unfair and your desire for a revised offer.

Step #5:  See what the college comes back with before accepting.

I have seen many cases where colleges gave an additional $10,000+ of free money per year just for asking in a negotiation letter.

There you have it… 3 of the best known ways to keep college costs as low as possible.

Scott Weingold
Publisher, College Made Simple


Related Articles:

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 1

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 2

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 3

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1 Comment

Jenny Zamora-GarciaJune 2nd, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Thank you Mr Weingold for your generous information. When I think of how we were taken by the other company I feel horrible but then for every bad thing that happens good things also come. YOU have been a good thing for our family!! Thank you for caring and making a difference!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.