Tips on lessening college expense: Be proactive early in order to reduce the out of pocket cost of college later 

  1. Be A Four-Year Student. The average graduation period is now just under six years. It was not always like this. How can a student graduate in four years?  Have definite direction when attending school. You do not need to choose a major, as long as you have a plan as to what your goals and interests are, so you can concentrate on them in your 3rd and 4th years. Attempt to obtain college credit  where possible in high school and Community Colleges. Attend summer classes, if possible. Take AP classes in high school and take the AP Exams. You may receive college credits.
  1. Do not put assets in the child name. They are counted much heavier against you than parent assets. The biggest trap is UTMAS that give parents control until age of maturity, but are considered irrevocable gifts to the child. Once done, you cannot change the name on the account if you move them to another vehicle.
  1. Look for Schools Known To Be Generous with Institutional Awards  There are many resources on the Web, but it can be complex. This is a good area to get help from Independent College Advisors or College Financial Advisors. In some cases, this institutional money can be for need and for others, merit. When creating your school list, you always want to keep affordability in mind.
  1. Consider College Savings Plans 529 saving plans can be godsends. Then, again, they can be nightmares if you do not have enough of a time horizon.  Remember, 529s are not immune to market collapses, so do this with care and an  advisor. It is not a great idea to invest during periods of stretched valuations for stocks.
  1. Work with an advisor to make sure your financial forms are done correctly. An advisor can do them or audit them. And, BY ALL MEANS, do fill out  financial forms each year, in spite of what your opinion is of whether you will  receive aid.
  1. Think About Speaking with A College Financial Planner years before college applications to position your finances for maximum financial aid.  Sometimes, families will be in a position to significantly reduce their college bill if  early financial planning is done. The time to think about this is as a High School  Freshman or well before.