By Jacob Newman, Outreach Officer and Financial Aid Expert – February 16, 2017
The cost of attending college in Utah for the average resident is about $18,000 per year! If this figure seems a little scary at first, step back and take a deeeeeeep breath. Inhale slowly… Now exhale slowly… Okay. Now that your heart rate is slowing back down, check this out. Not only does Utah have some of the lowest college costs in the country, there are also steps you can take in high school to lower college costs and prepare yourself for a fun and successful college experience. Here we go…
1. Enroll in concurrent enrollment, AP, or IB classes
- Utah schools offer many ways to take college courses and earn college credit while you’re in high school. Taking concurrent enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) are all options for Utah students like you. All of these options can fulfill both high school and college general education requirements. AP and IB classes are offered beginning in 10th grade, but students need to wait until 11th grade (or 10th grade with special permission) to take concurrent enrollment courses. If students plan in advance, they can finish many required courses before entering a certificate program, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, saving thousands in tuition and possibly even graduating high school with an associate degree already in hand.
- The Utah Scholars program will help you prepare academically and financially for college. If you complete the requirements of the program throughout your time in high school, you’ll also be able to stand out as a motivated, hardworking Utah Scholar on your résumé and scholarship applications. Not to mention, you’ll get a fancy Utah Scholars medallion to wear for your high school graduation. Sign up to be a Utah Scholar here.
3. Get involved by volunteering
- Utah’s residents have a strong reputation for volunteerism and service in the community. By getting involved with real-world opportunities in your area, you can gain important experience in a field that interests you. When you show that you are passionate about a cause, you stand out on scholarship and admissions applications, in job interviews, and more. You can also find unique scholarships relating to your volunteer work to save money on your future college costs.
4. Find a part-time job
- Part-time jobs can obviously help you fill your piggy bank, but working part-time has many other benefits. When you work during high school, you learn valuable skills like time management, leadership, and teamwork. You can list the experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve gained from working on your scholarship and admissions applications to prove that you are well prepared for the rigors of college, helping you stand out from the other applicants.
5. Make time for extracurricular activities
- Whether it’s playing a sport or joining a club, be sure that you make time for extracurricular activities. These opportunities will help make your high school experience fun and prepare you for college life. Just like volunteering or working part-time, you will learn time management, leadership, and team-work. When you have these valuable skills, you can apply for scholarships that match your interests and help pay for your education.
6. Apply for federal financial aid at FAFSA.gov
- After you have prepared academically, gotten involved in extracurricular activities, saved up money from your part-time job, and applied for as many scholarships as possible, you need to be sure to fill out your FAFSA during your senior year! The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an online form that you fill out to apply for college money like grants, work-study, and student loans. Even if you don’t want or need the assistance offered through the FAFSA, it is still wise to fill it out. Why? Because many scholarships require FAFSA completion as a part of the application process. It’s also a good idea to have the financial aid to fall back on in case you do end up needing more money to cover your college costs. Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. So, fill your FAFSA out as close to October 1st of your senior year as possible!
- Check out our awesome video, “You CAN Pay for College. Here’s How…” It will teach you all about the different ways to pay for college, give you tips on searching and applying for scholarships, and more – all in under 14 minutes. Watch the video.
Do you have other ideas or suggestions for lowering future college costs during high school? Have you had success with one or several of the ideas we shared? If so, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear about your ideas and successes!
Jacob Newman is a Community Outreach Officer with Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA) and financial aid expert. Before working with UHEAA, he worked as a the Job Readiness Program Coordinator at the English Skills Learning Center. Jacob graduated with an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Brigham Young University in August 2016. He speaks Thai, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Follow Jacob on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @stepupjacob.