Today’s college education costs approximately $37,000 per year for a 4-year private school and $17,000 per year for a 4-year public school 1. Tuition and fees at today’s colleges continue to increase at approximately 3% per year 1.
There’s not many of us that have all that cash just sitting under the mattress at home. So how are you going to pay for college and not go broke?
If you want to pay for college and not go broke, you will need to put some serious effort in planning for it and be ready to do some work. We’ve put together some major steps you should learn that may actually help you pay for college without going broke. The sooner you start understanding the college planning and application process, the more money you can potentially save on tuition costs!
The best way to pay for college without going broke is to receive free money, in the form of college scholarships. You can start your scholarship search usually as early as your Junior year in high school. College scholarships may be available through your school, church, workplace or your extracurricular activities. Contact your high school career center or counselor to help you find scholarships that fit your profile. Remember, applying for scholarships is time consuming, so be prepared to invest a significant amount of time to this endeavor.
If you work part-time while in high school, or over the summer, make sure you are putting some of these earnings into a savings account for college.
There are several ways to obtain college credits while you are in high school, including taking Advanced Placement classes and testing out of college coursework. Some high schools also allow Seniors to take college classes at a local Junior college. Colleges have varying requirements on accepting these class credits, so you will need to check with your potential colleges on their specific rules.
Many school and community volunteer groups offer scholarships to Seniors who have contributed to the organization. You will not only be doing good, but earning free money and making a difference. And what could be more rewarding then that.
Your college testing scores are not only important for acceptance into colleges, but also for academic scholarships. Competitive academic scholarships usually take into account your grades and also your test scores. Be sure to take a test prep course and study for the exam. You can always re-take the exams to better a previous score, but don’t report your scores to schools and scholarships organizations until you have achieved your best test score.
You and your parents will need to complete the FAFSA after January 31st of your Senior year, and every year in college thereafter. Completing the FAFSA gives you the opportunity to qualify for federal student aid, like grants and federal student loans. Using financial aid, like free money and federal loans, is a great way to pay for college.
Although college applications can be expensive ($50-$100 each), applying to more than a couple of schools gives you more flexibility to choose from schools that accept you and compare college costs and financial award packages.
By about the 1st of April of your Senior year, you should receive an award letter from your school detailing the financial aid they will offer you. Your award letter might include scholarships & grants, federal student loans and federal work-study. After reviewing your award letter, you should have a good idea how much more money you’ll need to come up with to pay for college.
If you really want to attend a certain school, but another school has offered you more money, contact the financial aid department of your first choice school and see if they will be willing to match the other school’s award package. Use our Comparing Colleges Calculator to help you get started.
Before you leave for college, you and your family should establish a college budget consisting of funds you can rely on from your parent’s contribution and your monthly spending projection.
If you receive graduation money from friends and family, don’t blow it all on summer fun. Think about saving most of it for your upcoming college expenses.
Federal work-study is a great way to earn money on or near campus, while at the same time developing skills that will help you secure future employment.
Direct Stafford Loans are the most widely-used low cost loan available to college students. The amount you can borrow depends on your grade level in college:
If you need additional money to pay for your college expenses, consider working part-time while in school or save your money from your summer employment. If you can, try to obtain a paid college internship. You can earn money, college credit and work experience all at the same time!
Believe it or not, maintaining good grades while in college could save you money. There are still plenty of scholarships available while you are in college, some dependent on a minimum GPA to qualify. In addition, some schools have special programs for students who make the “Dean’s List” or maintain exceptional grades, and they may grant a free class the following semester.
The best place to look for undergraduate scholarships to help you pay for college is through your school’s financial aid office. Your financial aid office will know about scholarships from companies or alumni organizations that might fit your specific situation. It also doesn’t hurt to check with your specific department, (i.e. English or Business) and see if there are any scholarships being offered specifically for your major. Once you have exhausted your school’s resources, you might start your own scholarship search. You can look locally in your city or town, or use an internet scholarship search engine. Just make sure it’s free – beware of any site trying to charge you money to look or apply for scholarships.
If you have tried everything listed above, and you still don’t have enough money to pay for college, you can apply for a private student loan. Remember, private student loans are more expensive than low-cost federal loans, so make sure you borrow those first. Making interest payments while you are in school will give you significant savings on your private student loans.
There are plenty of student discounts available on travel, computers, food, entertainment and more!
Don’t forget to keep your monthly spending habits in check with your college budget. It’s easy for spending to get out of control when you are on your own for the first time. Use our College Budget Planner to create a college budget and keep your finances on track.