The question ‘How do I pay for college tuition?” is similar to asking, “How do I learn a new language?” There are many answers to it , but there’s not always one definite path.
Like most students and families, you will have to cobble together funds from multiple sources. To know and apply for the best financial aid read the following advice
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid even if you feel you don’t qualify for any aid, according to Ben Miller, a senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress. The FAFSA is your ultimate ticket into the financial aid arena so submitting it puts you in the running to get some financial aid including federal grants, student loans, work-study opportunities, and other state and school-based aid.
- Fill out the FAFSA
First, fill it out as soon as you can because some colleges award money on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition to the FAFSA, some schools further require you to complete the CSS profile to be eligible for aid. About 250 colleges use it to assess whether you qualify for institutional grants and scholarships.
- Search for scholarships
You don’t have to wait until you are in your final year in high school to begin your scholarship search. In fact, it could be very rewarding to start earlier. For example, the Evans Scholars Foundation awards full-ride scholarships to hundreds of golf caddies every year. But you have to be a caddie for a minimum of two years to qualify, which means you need to start caddying during your second year in high school in order to be eligible by the time you apply at the beginning of your senior year.
Unlike student loans,you normally not expected to repay scholarships. There are thousands are available so use a scholarship search tool to narrow your selection. Many scholarships require that you submit the FAFSA, and a few others also have an additional application.
- Choose an affordable school
Paying for college tuition will be easier if you select a school that’s reasonably priced for you. To avoid straining yourself financially, consider starting at a community college or technical school. But if decide to go for a traditional four-year university, look for one that is generous with aid. Focus on the net price of each school after grants and scholarships. Try using each school’s net price calculator to estimate the amount you will be expected to pay out of pocket or borrow.
Remember, simply because one school’s sticker price is lower doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more affordable for you, says Phil Trout, a college counselor and President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. For example, if a $25,000-a-year school doesn’t offer you any form of aid, but a $55,000-a-year college offers you $40,000 in aid, the later with the higher sticker price is actually a more affordable option for you.
- Use grants if you qualify
A 2016 study found that high school graduates leave billions of dollars in federal Pell Grant money unclaimed by not submitting the FAFSA.
Don’t do this mistake. As long as you submit the FAFSA on time and renew it each year you are enrolled in school, you will receive Pell money if you are considered eligible.
In addition to the Pell program, the federal government offers multiple grants, which don’t need to be repaid. Many states also offer grant programs too. Use this map on the Education Department website to find out the organizations in your state that administer college grants. Then carefully apply to state grant programs you may qualify for.
- Get a work-study job
A typical college job checks multiple boxes: It provides useful work experience, income, and potentially valuable connections. The federal work-study program funds part-time jobs opportunities for college students with financial need. To submit your application, use FAFSA. If you get accepted, you will see “work-study” listed on your financial aid award. However, being eligible for work-study isn’t enough. You have to find an eligible work-study job on your campus and work for the reasonable hours to earn the money you qualify for.
- Tap your savings
Realistically, you will probably have to dip into your savings to pay for tuition, room and board, and all college-related expenses. The typical family covers about 34% of college costs this way, according to a 2017 research by Sallie Mae.
And if your parents saved money in a 529 plan — a state-sponsored tax-advantaged college investment account — access the funds by contacting the plan’s administrator.
- Opt for federal loans if you have to
You don’t have to say yes to all the aid you are going to be offered — especially when it comes to student loans. As a general rule of thumb, aim for student loan payments that don’t go above 10% of projected after-tax monthly income your initial year out of school.
If you need to borrow to pay for college, consider federal student loans before private ones. Federal loans come with many benefits that private loans don’t give, including access to income-driven repayment plans and even forgiveness programs.
- Borrow private loans as a last resort
Be selective of the kind of scholarships you apply for and the information you provide. There are several genuine scholarship sources, but beware of scams. The Federal Trade Commission has outlined more details on avoiding scholarship scams. Here are some ways to avoid getting scammed include:
- Don’t give in to pressure tactics that push for money or personal information quickly
- Never give out credit card or bank account numbers to agencies that you cannot verify are legitimate with your college or any reputable source
- Never pay fees upfront, especially to a scholarship organization that promise you will win a scholarship by handing over money. Use any of the many free scholarship search services available.