How to Pay for College
Posted in : Uncategorized on by : Brian Connor Comments:
Asking how one pays for college is like asking, “How do I get in shape?” There are many ways to get there, but there’s not always a straight path forward. For all college expenses (tuition, room and board, meal plans, etc.), you’ll most likely have to go into your long term savings. But for the average family, not even half of their savings and income are enough to pay for college. Grants, scholarships, and student loans are how you pay the rest.
Check out our guide on navigating the costs of a college education.
1. Look Into Filling Out the FAFSA
The FAFSA is an application for student aid provided on the federal-level. This is the first thing you fill out if you are looking to apply for financial aid for college. FAFSA will put you in line for grants, work-study programs, and student aid.
Even if you don’t think you qualify for federal student aid, it’s worth filling out the FAFSA anyway just to know what you are entitled. Many students are able to qualify for some kind of student aid package regardless of family income.
2. Educate Yourself on Available Scholarships
After filling out the FAFSA, it will take a while to find out what you are qualified for in terms of federal aid and school-based programs. Use this time to search for private scholarships offered by schools and other academic initiatives.
There are an astounding number of scholarships available. Scholarships can be awarded based on GPA, race or ethnicity, athletics, and for certain hobbies.
Start looking for scholarship opportunities as early as possible. Don’t wait until you are a senior in high school to find something that works for you. Many colleges and universities even offer full-rides to students who show excellent academic aptitude as early as your sophomore year.
3. Review Your Student Aid Opportunities & Make a Decision!
Usually you will receive a letter of your scholarship awards or student aid entitlements a semester before you are planning to attend college. Here are some of the differences between each of the financial aid options offered.
Scholarships: This is commonly referred to as “gift aid.” This is money that you do not have to pay back. These are offered by government on the federal and state-level. Scholarships and grants are usually offered based on academic merit or your background.
Work Study Programs: Part of the federal work-study program which allows you to work in campus jobs part-time to pay for your own college.
Student Loans: There are a lot of loans offered by the government that can be used to pay for your education. This type of financial aid has to be paid-back to lenders, however. But the interest rates of student loans are pretty reasonable.
When it comes to student aid—like loans—it’s best to only apply for how much you expect to make in your first year out of college. The cool thing is you don’t have to take more than you need. Always take federal loans before you apply for private ones. A lot of times with federal loans, you can apply for loan forgiveness programs to get rid of the debt you’re not able to pay for. That’s something you won’t see with private loans.
Only Use Private Loans If There Aren’t Any Options
Often times there are gaps in your payments for college. Gaps that may need to be supplemented by private money from relatives or other institutions. But as mentioned previously, federal loans are the better way to go when paying for college.
But if you do need to use private loans, weigh your options before choosing a lender. You want to find the best deals possible with the least amount of interest rates. It is wise to use a student loan calculator so you can find out what you’ll be owing month-to-month after you graduate for college with interest rates included.
Overall, student aid is a very important thing to consider when applying to colleges. People say you can always lose a house or lose a car, but an education is something that will stay with you forever!