It’s never too early to start thinking about how to pay for college. According to the College Board, the average college tuition and fees in the 2014-2015 school year ranged from around $9,000 for state residents at public schools to just over $30,000 for a private education. In addition to tuition, which can vary depending on your major, colleges charge mandatory fees to use facilities like libraries and the gym, and charge students to support transportation and student government. Factor in the price tag of a dorm room, books, food, supplies, clothing, computers, and other accessories, and the cost of a college education can really add up.
Don’t let the costs of college dissuade you from obtaining an excellent education. There are plenty of ways to pay for college that won’t bankrupt you or your family. We’ve put together a few steps to help walk you through the financial aid process.
1. Talk to your family: You’ll need to report your family income when applying for financial aid. It’s important that your parents understand how their income and assets can affect your chances at receiving aid money. One tip to receiving more money from schools is to limit your own savings. It seems counterintuitive, but the more money you have in your own name, the less money you’ll be offered.
2. Fill out a FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to inquiring about receiving financial help from the college of your choice. All colleges use the FAFSA to determine federal financial aid packages.
3. Research scholarships: You can be given scholarships for a variety of reasons, including academic achievement, unique skill or hobby, strong athletic background, ethnic heritage, specific career path, religious affiliation, and even where you were born, raised, or currently reside. Check out scholarship search engines, like Fastweb and Big Future to help look for sources of free money.
4. Try for grants: Grants are free money from federal and state governments, colleges, or specific organizations. Grants are available for students who meet certain qualifications, such as being war veterans, public school teachers, or a student whose family requires financial assistance.
5. Work for tuition: Work-study programs allow students to work on campus (and sometimes off campus) in jobs related to their field of study. The money earned is deducted from tuition. Work-study programs are a great way to get hands-on experience in your career field while also saving money on college fees.
6. Crowdfunding: Hop on a crowdfunding site like Upstart or GoFundMe and explain to the world why you need money for college. Crowdfunding for school costs is something that has just started to get popular. Lean on the generosity of other’s to help support your college dreams.
High school and college counselors can offer great resources when it comes to paying for college. Often, local organizations and businesses offer scholarships to graduating seniors. These scholarships might not appear on large, national scholarship search sites. School alumni frequently set up college scholarships for graduates, as well. Sometimes you won’t have to look too far outside of your own community to help pay for and achieve your dreams.
Written by Amanda Ronan