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The old school way of coasting through college involved consuming lots of beer, often resulting in the 5-year-plan. Not so anymore. In this shaky economic climate, gone are the days of partying your way through school. In most instances, mom and dad are no longer footing the bill, requiring college aspirants to do it on their own. Do yourself a favor and save tuition dollars by graduating in three years instead of four.

Sure, you'll have to ramp up your course load, forcing you into a somewhat reduced social schedule. But, going against the grain can save you thousands. In fact, the average annual tuition at the University of New Hampshire is $25,000. Graduating from this school one year early will save you big. Plus, only about 4% of college students graduate in three years. When employers see you've performed this feat, you're more likely to soar to the top of their pile of potentials. So, skip the frat party, ditch the toga, and put your money where your brain is.

Buzz through college early with these steadfast tips:

Commit yourself to a major early. Don't enter college in "la la land." Conversely, wrap your head around a major and stick with it. Make sure it's something you can see yourself doing for years to come. Once decided, alert your advisor that you want to complete your goal in three years. He or she will help you on your way towards fast tracking your diploma.

Ramp up your course load. Forego the sunny summer on the lake and take extra courses instead. Summer semesters are cheaper and generally shorter, allowing you to skip a whole year by cramming year-round. Or, overload your semester by tacking on extra courses. Studying while your peers are out partying may not be fun, but it gets you more bang for your semester buck. If your college limits the amount of courses you can take each semester, recruit your advisor. These limits can usually be waived. *A word of caution: don't bite off more than you can chew. Attending summer school is much better than failing classes. Inspire yourself by reading stories from students who enriched their college experience by loading up on courses.

Ace placement exams. Smarty pants students save big money by passing AP exams. Many colleges issue credits for excelling on these placement tests, allowing you to accumulate credits before you even open a book. If you can qualify for just 20 hours of course credit through your testing, you stand to save an average of $3,000 in tuition costs. Additionally, testing can shave off prerequisite courses and lessen the need to overload your schedule or attend summer school. For placement test tips, go here.

Overlap Classes. Kill two birds with one stone by using one class to fulfill two requirements. Marketing, communications, English and art classes often suffice for dual graduation requirements. Plan your first year's schedule wisely by knocking off general education requirements that also fulfill your major or minor requirements. For example, a Shakespeare class can count for both an English and a theater credit. Look here for tips on how to successfully schedule your first year of classes.

Utilize CLEP exams. Think high school was a waste of time? No way. CLEP exams provide a unique tool for earning college credits on what you already know. CLEP is a widely accepted credit-by-examination program accepted by many universities. Depending on the subject matter, you can earn 3 to 12 credits per exam. For as little as $77 you can streamline your course load and get prerequisites out of the way. For tips on using CLEP to shorten the path to your degree, check this out.

Aside from picking up the college pace, adopt some additional ways to save on school:

Spend a year or two at a Community College before transferring to your dream school. The credits are the same and cost way less. Plus, you'll save money bunking up with mom and dad.

Take online classes, allowing you a flexible school schedule. This approach leaves time to work while you go to school and eliminates overload.

Earn extra credit points for life experiences. A work history in accounting, marketing or sales can be counted as school credit. Volunteer work or skills training can also suffice. Visit Everything About College for a full list of credit earners.

Go to school overseas. Other countries, such as the UK and Canada, boast international tuition fees costing a quarter to half of what it costs to attend a private US college. In many cases, undergraduate programs are much shorter, saving both time and money.

So pull your head out of the "freshman fog," forego the keg-stand parties, and save money by accelerating your learning instead. The sooner you launch onto the job market, the more time you have to make money, allowing you to reap the benefits of "playing hooky" from life at a much earlier age.

This has been a guest post by Christina from Tetonia, ID
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