Go to an in-state, state-funded university. Do well in school. Apply for scholarships (of which there are many.) Start looking at scholarships NOW. FAFSA is huge. Take AP classes in high school. TAKE AP CLASSES IN HIGH SCHOOL! If you don’t, you have to take them in college…where they are not free. Look into work study programs. Don’t bring your car to college…be frugal while you’re at school (because the money you spend on not-college stuff is not insignificant.)
None of these things are particularly fun. And if you have the option, I’d look into smaller schools, because I really liked mine, but they are MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. But if you do well in school, there are full-ride scholarships in the world…if I didn’t mention this before…apply for lots of scholarships.
And now, advice for the kind of people who couldn’t afford the AP classes in high school (me) and were less academics focused (me).
*Community service scholarships* are beautiful things. If you haven’t done community service through your high school clubs or student council, get started now. I didn’t do that particularly well in school, but I logged in a lot of hours at my local food pantry. I got into a community service scholarship program at my university that paid for the majority of my tuition/room & board. I didn’t have to take out a loan until my last semester of university. Take a look at different national charities that you’re into, and see what scholarship programs they offer in change for you volunteering for them.
Compare cost of living in your college/uni town to the costs of a dorm room. Every city has a different outcome. I like Hank’s idea of not bringing a car; your fee for your parking tag is going to be ridiculous. But in some places that’s not possible. I minimized my car usage by getting a part time job on campus. Even better, I got a job as a desk assistant for dorms, so sometimes I just needed to walk downstairs.
If you have a meal plan, go as often as humanly possible. I know the cafeteria can get boring now and again, or your friends that don’t have meal plans go out to eat off campus, but fight that urge. That is how I spent most of the money I should not have spent. Understand the limitations of your meal plan, and find out if it can be applied outside the cafeteria. Go grocery shopping with friends/hall-mates. Go to those free events that RAs in your building or your campus host all the time, because they incentivize with free food. See if you can have a coffeemaker in your dorm instead of having to go to Starbucks every morning. Bananas are a cost effective fruit that also give you the same amount of energy.
The thing about scholarships that a lot of people don’t realize is that you can apply to them while you’re in uni. That doesn’t have to be a high school thing. Here’s a 2014 list of the top scholarship engines. I got small little things for being a church member, knowing how to play more than one instrument, and my lineage. It’s ridiculous how you can get money.
You can also get your basic credits out if the way/figure out what you want to study much more cheaply at a local community college where the credits transfer easily. While living at home and working full time while attending school part time can mess up the typical 4 year time line, you can avoid student loans all together which comes to be REALLY handy. If you are struggling with scholarships or what to study you can explore here without worrying about the extra 2000 you just spent on a class you have no interest in