In case you haven’t been paying attention, the cost of attending college is spiraling out of control. It has led many to question whether a four-year degree is even worth it. Others are looking for ways to pay for college without going into too much debt.
These numbers published by the College Board in the fall of 2012 bear this point out:
“Average published tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased from $8,256 in 2011‐12 to $8,655 in 2012‐13. The 4.8% ($399) increase in tuition and fees was accompanied by a $325 (3.7%) increase in room and board charges for students living on campus. At $9,205, room and board charges account for more than half of the total charges for these students.”
So that’s an average of $17,461 for room and board at an in-state, public four-year school. No wonder, the high cost of higher education has left many parents and teenagers frustrated and seemingly with just a few options on ways to pay for college.
Many high school students take the logical step of securing summer employment to help them earn money to pay for college. If a student can earn $3,000 – $4,000 over the course of the summer to put towards college that would help, right? It certainly would but I’m going to suggest today that you have another alternative that a) you probably won’t like because it requires studying, but b) will probably provide more bang for your buck than working at a summer job.
One of the Best Ways to Pay for College
Instead of working over the summer, study to improve your SAT (or ACT) scores and watch the money roll in.
College entrance test are becoming more and more important to a student’s entrance into the college of their choice. They are also being used increasingly to divide up scholarship money among deserving students. If an institution is considering two students with similar backgrounds and high school GPAs, the test score may become the deciding factor in who gets accepted and who gets what money. I’ve seen this time and time again at the school where I teach.
We’ve had many students through the years graduate with GPAs of 3.75 or higher. The 3.75 GPA students who fall into the 1200-1400 range on their SAT score (cumulative score on all three subtests) see little scholarship money. The students who push the score to the 1600-1800 range see a noticeable uptick in the scholarship dollars offered them.
The one student I know who scored a 2000+ on the SAT saw an unworldly amount of scholarship money come her way. She was able to go out of state to a prestigious private school.
SAT scores absolutely matter!
An example might help illustrate this better. A high school student who works 40 hours a week over the summer (June – August) at $8.00/hr. (a little higher than the federal minimum wage) could expect to earn approximately $3,500 in net pay. Assuming the student worked for the summers of their junior and senior year, they would accumulate around $7,000 to be used toward college. If they kept that same summer job through college, another $14,000 would be earned over the next four years.
$21,000 for six summers’ worth of employment. That’s not bad, but here’s another option.
Let’s look at the merit-based scholarships granted by my alma mater, Cedarville University in Ohio. According to their website, a 3.75 GPA student who scores an 1100 (combined score of the Math and Critical Reading subtests) on the SAT would be eligible for their $4,000 Faculty Scholar Award.
However, if the same 3.75 GPA student were to raise his or her SAT score to a 1360 or better on those two subtests, they would be eligible for the President’s Scholar Award. The price tag on that scholarship – $12,000. That is an $8,000 increase in scholarship money just by improving the SAT score by 260 points, which is doable with preparation and by taking the test multiple times.
That $12,000 scholarship is renewable for four years as long as the student maintains a cumulative college GPA of 3.2 or higher. So in four years that’s $48,000 for college. How’s that summer job paycheck looking now?
The great thing is that this type of program is not unique to Cedarville. Colleges across the country have tiered systems of merit-based scholarships available based on high school GPA and test scores. Those areas are clearly resume enhancers.
It’s a shame that many students and parents are not taking their grades and these tests more seriously. I know many students who don’t prepare at all before the SAT. They are literally missing out on one of the best ways to pay for college.
So high school students (and parents), you may want to reconsider whether that summer job is worth it. The time may be better spent hunched over an SAT prep book. Maybe you could get really radical and memorize some vocabulary lists and review your Trigonometry. Take an SAT prep course at your local high school or through a private company. There are so many resources available now to prepare for this test. Take advantage of them and earn mega-dollars for your education.
Questions: What are some other ways to pay for college that you took advantage of? Did your high school summer job help pay for college? Did you work to improve your SAT score after the first attempt?
Next Post: Health, Wealth and Moments of Clarity