College is a big expense and not many of us come from families with unlimited funds, so most of us need to find more money and do not want to take out loans.
Perform well in school: At least 6 months before taking the PSAT in October of Junior year, start practicing! You can get free practice tests on Kahn Academy and check out test prep books from the local library. If you do well on the PSAT you may be a candidate for merit scholarships down the road.
Get a job: Get a job now and start saving! Of course, your primary job is being a student, so if your grades begin to suffer, this is not the best option. There are even some employers (think Starbucks, Publix, Home Depot) that have tuition reimbursement programs for part-time employees.
Live at home: Keep an open mind during the college search and selection process. You can save money by living at home and/or attending a community college.
Graduate on time: Less than 50% of students starting college full time with the intent of graduating in 4 years actually do. You can save money if you begin figuring out what career and major are best for you BEFORE you enter college. Do this by taking career inventories (which are usually offered free at your school) or shadowing/ interviewing a professional in your community on the pros and cons of their job. Most folks would be open to mentoring a young student.
Ask relatives: They may be able to pay the college directly and not incur a gift tax.
Apply for Scholarships: Some are based on need and some are based on merit. Ask your
School Counselor where and when you can start applying (usually not until Winter of senior year). Check out the top Mobile Apps (Scholly and Scholarship Owl are two) and check out the current edition of The Ultimate Scholarship Book from the library (some are very specific to the state you live in, the major you want to pursue, etc...). If you are thinking of a military career after college, join the ROTC and receive their scholarship.
If you save money - you have found it!
If you have questions regarding the college and career selection process, please submit them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.