Updated: Mar 3
Despite what the majority have seemed to follow, the typical college plan for getting your degree is not the only effective one to exist. For many, an alternative path may be better suited for their learning style, their goals, their career plan, and their financial state. If you are looking to practically save money and time in your higher education journey, start looking into transferable community college courses, work-study programs, accelerated masters programs, and more!
1. Get those "Gen Eds" out of the way!
Just like the graduation requirement classes in high school, in order to earn your degree in college, “Gen-Eds” or General Education Courses are the courses outside the major of your choice that you must take. If you are familiar with what you would like to pursue, there are many ways to take these Gen-Eds previous to your first years in college, saving time, and more often than not, money.
Option 1: Dual Enrollment in High School
Dual Enrollment is offered by the majority of high schools in the U.S.
You have the ability to take transferable college courses while also completing your high school degree.
As each course in college has its own separate tuition, and Dual Enrollment often provides college classes with little to no cost, each class you get out of the way in high school saves the money you would’ve spent taking that same class in college. See estimates on class tuition here.
Several schools will have Dual Enrollment Pathways that allow you to get your Associate’s degree in high school as well (If you attend Ardrey Kell HS, see this page to learn more. Here is the page for Marvin Ridge HS dual enrollment as well.)
Check out our interview with Mojo Joshua Sonola, an alum of California Institute of Technology who took Dual Enrollment classes for an associate’s degree in chemistry and physics, if you’d like to hear about his experience.
If Dual Enrollment hasn’t been the best fit for you, taking several AP classes is another viable option. Depending on the college you go to and your AP exam scores, you can credit for several of these Gen-Eds.
To learn more about Dual Enrollment, AP classes, and other high school paths for college, click here.
Option 2: Community College
If you didn’t have a chance to dual enroll in high school, no problem, not all schools offer it. You can take community college classes anytime.
There are many who take their Gen-Eds at community college, as tuition is often lower, and later transfer to their preferred university/college to take classes focused on their major to complete their degree.
Another way to utilize community college courses is to take them alongside classes in your preferred school. Essentially, you would take Gen-Eds through your community college, and other courses at your preferred college at the same time. Be sure to check if your school allows for this option.
Both methods are cheaper, and save you time to use in your career-specific education.
Check out Christopher St. Hilaire’s podcast interview with us here. Christopher earned his Associate’s degree through his local community college, and is now pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Princeton University!
By following these options, the money you save during undergrad can be used for graduate school!
Accelerated Master’s Programs
Accelerated Master's Programs are exactly what they sound like: you are given the opportunity to earn your Master’s degree alongside your Bachelor’s.
By partaking in one of these programs, you save several years of education, and can enter the workforce sooner.
This allows for more time to earn money, while still receiving an education, and your desired level of degree.
Every year you save in an accelerated program gives you more time to earn money towards paying off student loans, saving up for even further education, or supporting yourself in any other way!
Prestigious schools such as Yale University have these programs too.
These Accelerated Master’s Programs can be online as well.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of earning two degrees at once:
3. Conquer it all:
Work-Study programs allow college students with financial need to learn while working to pay educational expenses. An example of this would be having a research job or working at the library.
There are Federal and Non-Federal programs
Federal involve part-time jobs provided to only students who qualify for FAFSA
Non-Work Study programs include those outside of that qualification.
Being a part of a Work-Study program cannot affect your financial aid eligibility.
Through Work-Study you can:
Gain experience in the workforce
Build work relationships
4. Move around:
If you are looking for a new experience, and a way to save time in higher education, consider going abroad.
Outside of the U.S., several schools can require fewer years of education for a degree, and may also have lower tuition.
In the UK, college is only a 3 year process. Plus, you can experience a new environment!
Interested? Click here for more information on schools in the UK.
Need help making a decision on YOUR college journey? Sign up for our 2022-23 AlumniAdvisors program here.
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