10 Creative Ways to Afford College

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ways to afford college


No one wants to borrow money for college, but there are times when taking out loans may be necessary. Reducing the cost of college through scholarships, grants, and more is preferred to taking out loans. Being aware of options and opportunities and planning ahead is the best way to make college affordable. Not listed in order of importance or chronologically, here are ten important steps to take to secure the lowest price possible for your student’s college expenses.

  1. Narrow down top college choices and go ahead and apply as early as allowed. It is hard to compare apples with apples until a financial package is offered. Most colleges offer a code to waive the application fee, or they have certain times when a student can apply for free. This is another way to save money!
  2. After you receive a financial aid package, do not be afraid to ask for a review by the financial aid department if the expenses are too high for your family and make an appeal for more financial aid. Let them know that you need to reduce the costs even more if your student is to attend that particular college. If your student has received a better offer from another college, let the college of your choice know that and ask them to meet that offer. It never hurts to ask.
  3. Have your student take dual enrollment classes during high school or earn college credit via CLEP and AP. Before spending money, check with the colleges you are considering to find out their policies regarding DE, CLEP, and AP credits. Earning credit via CLEP and AP can save money, but if the college your student attends does not accept the credit, then that will be money spent unnecessarily.
  4. Check out the grants offered by your state. These are usually tied to the lottery and have certain requirements that homeschool students must meet in order to use the grant. If your state offers grants that cannot be used out-of-state, but your student plans to attend college in another state, then check and see if the grant can be used for dual enrollment. As an example, in Tennessee a student can use the dual enrollment grant and then borrow against the HOPE while still in high school, and if they dual enroll with Bryan College (which also offers a $200 scholarship per class), then that student can earn 30 credit hours for a total out-of-pocket cost of only $600 total. 60 hours is a full year of college! Depending on the college of choice and the grants offered by a certain state, it may be worth moving to another state before your student’s senior year.
  5. Be sure your student knows that the highest scholarships are usually based on the college exam score and GPA. Even with colleges that are test-optional, they use either the GPA, the exam scores, or both to determine academic scholarships. Find out what scholarships each college offers and ask if they are stackable. Here is an article that not only shares more about the importance of scholarships, but it also includes links to test prep sites, independent scholarships, and more.
  6. Take note of time sensitive deadlines. Fill out the FAFSA in October of the student’s senior year. Apply in time to participate in additional opportunities the college may offer (see #8). Sign up for the college exams early enough to avoid late fees. Make note that the PSAT is offered in October each year.
  7. Be aware of opportunities to save or earn additional funds. Many families start a 529 plan in order to save ahead for college while receiving tax benefits. Bryan College hosts a scholarship event each semester for qualified students who have been accepted to the college. This event is free and each student attending can earn another $200 to $2,000 in scholarship funds based on an academic interview. The November event includes an essay contest and one lucky winner receives 4 years’ worth of tuition. Students who qualify for National Merit Scholarships by scoring high on the PSAT their junior year will also receive full rides to certain colleges. Bryan College also has an opportunity for qualifying students to earn a tuition-free master’s degree. That is a huge financial consideration, especially for certain degrees (such as education).
  8. Ask each college if they have a loan repayment opportunity. You may be pleasantly surprised at the repayment opportunities offered by some colleges. Certain majors (such as education) often have loan repayment or, better yet, loan forgiveness opportunities.
  9. Do your research. There are several Facebook groups to join that will allow you to ask questions as well as reap the benefits of learning from the experiences of others. One page is Paying for College 101, another is Paying for Christian College, and a third is College Prep Roadmap. If you are interested in Bryan College, we have a Facebook page dedicated to homeschooled families.
  10. Do not rule out private colleges and do not assume that two years of community college will save money in the long run. Transferring to another college after receiving an AA degree lessens scholarship offers in most situations. You may end up paying more for the last two years than it would have cost for all 4 years at the same college. Private colleges often have private donors, and additional opportunities not found at state universities. Bryan College has an opportunity for students living in the state of Tennessee to receive full tuition if their family’s income is $36,000 or less. Many families with single income, especially those in ministries, would fit in that category. It might make it worth moving to Tennessee before your student’s senior year.  

Understanding options and opportunities and avoiding mistakes often made by homeschooling families can result in huge financial savings!


Pat Wesolowski is an author, speaker, and homeschooling mother of 9 who is now the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College in Dayton, TN. After homeschooling her 9 children for the past 32 years, she is finally finished! Pat has a heart for helping parents find joy in their homeschooling experience and, for that reason, loves teaching workshops in order to encourage and equip parents for a fun and successful homeschool experience. Pat is the host of a podcast entitled “Homeschooling Co-op Style,” writes a blog, and has authored numerous unit studies for homeschooled students.  Pat has also written a free eResource to help parents plan for a successful high school experience. It is available to download at this link:


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