A lot of people ask me how I graduated in less than 18 months and I love sharing the pretty much unknown ways to shorten and/or save significant money on college. I didn't go into college thinking I could graduate that quickly (as my readers know, I went into college in hopes of launching a career). The popular belief that you MUST go to college in order to have success/money/happiness is promoted by a variety of special interest groups who're very invested in keeping our current system of higher education. As I shared in this post, there are plenty of ways to earn a living/prepare for the future WITHOUT going away to a traditional 4-year institution.
In a minute I'll share my general tips for reducing the time/cost of college, but here's my story: At 18, I went into a traditional 4-year institution with 30 credits from AP tests in high school (30 credits = 2 college semesters of work). My first semester of college I took a normal workload, but in the second semester I took a full on campus load of classes plus a full load of online classes from Liberty University. The next semester (summer) I took only online classes from Liberty and another class online through Regent University. The next (last) semester I took another full load at Liberty. During this time I also took 2 CLEP (College Level Examination Placement) tests.
Here are the best tips for saving time and money at higher education:
1) Utilize the high school years by taking Advanced Placement tests. Most colleges accept a score of 3 or above and you can exempt out of that class. For instance, taking the AP Biology test in high school (the test can be taken by homeschoolers) and scoring a 4 could get you out of college biology.
2) Take CLEP tests. College Level Examination Placement tests are given through the College Board (the same people who do AP tests and the SAT). You study for the test (either by yourself or in a class) and pay $80 to take the test. 50% is usually a passing score, and the test can be transferred as a college class much like the AP.
3) Use the summers! Take CLEPS and take classes- Summer is the silent 3rd semester.
4) Take a full course load (if you can). Many advisors attempt to tell you that you shouldn't take the maximum amount of credits, and sometimes, with a little pressure, they'll allow you to take over the minimum.
5) Utilize completely online programs (like CollegePlus and Liberty University) or the online classes that many traditional colleges are beginning to offer.
6) Research the prerequisites of a program or college before you commit. Many colleges are starting to increase the level of required courses because it PAYS to keep students there longer. Do you really want to take 2 semesters worth of classes in such subjects as Latin Poetry or South American Architecture if you're an engineering major?
7) Double up on classes by taking classes from 2 schools or programs at one time. Community colleges and online courses work well for this.
8) See if your work experience will qualify as transfer credit. Many schools offer credit for 'real world' experience such as internships.
9) Be your own advisor! Research ALL the options and make the system work for you. Read deep into the websites and brochures of every program. Few alternative programs are openly advertised to students. The job of an advisor or professor is to keep you at college as long as possible in order to keep paying tuition (note: there are exceptions to this rule, especially at Christian schools like Liberty and CollegePlus)
10) Don't take no for an answer! Work the system! You can do anything if you just put time, commitment, and effort into it.
Be sure to check out this post on alternatives to traditional college.