One of the biggest concerns that both parents and students have about college is how they’re going to afford it. The cost of tuition is rising around the country, and then there’s the money you need to live day-to-day. There are a few ways to find money to pay for your college tuition and to help you pay for books, food, and extracurricular activities, too.
One of the best ways that you can cover your tuition is to apply for grants. The easiest way to do this is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). This automatically sends your information to the people who offer the Pell Grant, TEACH Grants, and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG).
The great thing about grants is that they do not need to be paid back. Grants are offered based on financial need. The FAFSA® looks at the cost of the university that you are attending versus the amount of money that your parents earn per year. You are then granted a certain amount of money from these different organizations based on how much they feel that you need in order to attend college.
Scholarships are another great way to pay for college. There are literally thousands of companies and organizations out there offering college scholarships to students just like you. Similar to grants, scholarships do not need to be paid back. Unlike grants, however, scholarships are given based on merit. There are educational scholarships, sports scholarships, and creative scholarships.
Most scholarships are offered by private organizations or from the universities themselves, and there is a lengthy application process. If you want to apply for a scholarship, be sure to organize everything early on and send all the completed information as soon as possible. Read instructions closely and don’t leave anything out. If you are truly serious about a scholarship application, have someone you trust like a teacher or parent look over everything to help make sure it’s all correct.
Loans are a very popular way for students to pay for college these days. Loans are given to you by either the government or private loan companies, and they must be paid back with interest added on. Just like applying for grants, the best way to apply for student loans is by filling out the FAFSA®. This will help you in applying for federally-funded student loans, which have the most favorable terms for college students. Federal student loans currently have interest rates of around 5 percent.
Depending on the college you attend and the grants that are given to you by the government, you can usually take out between $5,000 and $12,000 in federal student loans. If that amount doesn’t cover the rest of your tuition or you still need money for your expenses, then you may need to look into private student loans.
While federal student loans do not require a cosigner, private student loans do. Do your research on which loan company is right for you. Their interest rates vary from 3 percent to 12 percent depending on the size of your loan and how risky they feel you and your cosigner are.
Speak to the Financial Aid Office
If you did not receive the amount of money that you had hoped for in grants and scholarships, you should speak directly to the financial aid office at your college. They may have financial aid grants of their own that they offer to students who qualify. They may also be able to offer assistance with regards to part-time on-campus work.
You should also speak to your financial aid office about payment plans. If you’re paying out of pocket for some or all of your tuition, you may be able to work out a payment plan so that you can pay for school over a period of several months and not all at once.
If you have done all you can to receive grants, scholarships, and student loans and you still need money for college, you may want to consider getting a part-time job. Many campuses offer students the chance to work in the library, the gym, or in one of the academic offices when they don’t have class. Just be careful with on-campus jobs because this could affect the amount of money you receive in government grants.
If your college is located in a big city or you have a car on campus, there are bound to be other options for working off-campus, too. Prepare a résumé with your skills and previous work experience and go to local retail stores, restaurants, or temp agencies to see what kind of part-time work is available. This is a great way to make a bit of extra spending money.
Check Your Taxes
Students and parents can often receive tax relief if they are paying for college tuition. Credits that you owe reduce the amount of taxes that you need to pay. If you have deductions from paying off some of your student loans, then you won’t have to pay taxes on that either. Be sure to speak to your accountant about how you can reduce the amount you owe on your taxes and free up a bit of extra money that you can use for college expenses.
It may sound strange, but crowdfunding is becoming an incredibly popular way for people to fund their college education. Websites like GoFundMe and IndieGoGo allow you to create personal fundraising pages for things like studying abroad, college expenses, or large projects that you need extra cash to complete.
If you’re looking for help with college and you’ve tried everything else, crowdfunding is a great way to get your local community involved in your life. Don’t simply ask people for a handout. Be sure to explain to people exactly what you plan to use the money for and why you feel that you are a valuable investment.
There are so many companies and organizations out there that exist solely to help students afford college. Do your research, talk to the college counselors at your school, get in touch with financial aid offices at the universities that you want to attend, and start saving now.