College is expensive. Some university degrees cost over $100,000. Because of this, many parents save or take out loans to cover the costs of their child’s education, or at least the part that financial aid packages don’t cover. A college graduation is a dream that most parents want to make a reality for their children. 

To make that dream a realistic goal, consider the following ways to cut the cost of your child’s college degree. 

Make sure your child is academically prepared

Research shows that children who are academically behind before grade school begins remain behind throughout grade school. Unaddressed, children who are below grade level could eventually enter college below grade level. This issue amounts to one of the hidden costs of college: Students headed to a university without college-level reading, writing, and math skills are often required to take pre-college-level courses before they can even begin their undergraduate requirements. Taking extra classes equates to extra time and, sometimes, extra money. 

Ensuring your child’s academic success is dependent on his ability to read well at a young age, especially since most of the curriculum learned after third grade is delivered through reading. Take advantage of the literacy resources available that will help you help your child read and comprehend better now, before he reaches college. Two in particular are Reading Is Fundamental at rif.org and ReadWriteThink at readwritethink.org. 

Take advantage of ACT prep

The ACT test is a standardized test that most universities require students to take in order to determine admission and college readiness. The higher the ACT score, the better the student is expected to perform in college. Lower ACT test scores often result in students having to take more of those aforementioned pre-college courses. On the other hand, high ACT test scores may result in students being better recognized by scholarship organizations who want to invest their money in students who are more likely to succeed in college. 

To prepare your child to do well on the ACT, enroll your child in ACT preparation classes. Free ACT classes or preparation sessions are sometimes offered through your child’s high school. Contact your child’s academic counselor to check. You can also pay for ACT prep courses through private, for-profit organizations, such as Kaplan and Sylvan. Another way you can help your child prepare for the test is by utilizing free or cheap test prep materials. Your child can check out ACT resources from the local library, or you can buy them used from a thrift store or online. 

Start the scholarship search early

Academic scholarships enable students to cut college costs, but applying for them can be a tedious process. For example, most high-return scholarships require students to answer essay questions and submit multiple letters of recommendations from various school and community leaders, which can take up a lot of time outside the classroom. 

With this in mind, make sure your child has a handle on the scholarship application process early, so he or she won’t feel overwhelmed later. Have him or her start the scholarship process early by searching for types of scholarships several years before senior year. Have your child go through all the application requirements for the scholarships he found. Doing this will prepare your child to apply. 

For example, some scholarships require students to have leadership or community engagement experience. If so, your child has at least two years to make an impact in those areas. Throughout your child’s high school career, encourage him to gather evidence of his accomplishments (certificates, honors, and leadership experiences) and form relationships with teachers who will write excellent letters of recommendations. Because your child will have a jump start on the application process, he or she will be able to send off as many scholarship applications as possible to increase his chances of obtaining the funds needed to cut college costs.

Finally, if your child is a high school senior, remember to help complete your child’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you haven’t done so already. Early applicants increase their eligibility for state and federal aid. 

In addition, check out college-related events at your child’s high school, speak with a financial aid counselor at prospective universities, and visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-outstudentaid.ed.gov for more information on cutting college costs.