Paying for college isn’t cheap! And the truth is, no matter how valuable your education is, you don’t want to spend yours struggling with debt to earn a degree. That’s why we’ve compiled a ton of resources to help you make your way through school in a very affordable way. Below, we’ve provided scholarship listings, other financial aid sources, and information about ways to obtain financial aid. It’s likely that you already qualify for money to help you through school, but the trick is connecting you with the right opportunities.
Take a look through the listings sorted by various important factors, and check out the special rates and offers we’ve managed to negotiate with some top-end schools and student-support organizations. You don’t need to sell your soul to make it through school!
Other Financial Resources
Higher Education is an investment, the most worthwile investment with the greatest return you will ever make. As with any investment there is an upfront cost, with education it is tuition and other expenses associated with earning a degree. The age old question is how is one to pay for higher education?
The first thing to determine is exactly what is the school of your choice going to cost you personally. There are community colleges where the cost to be a full-time student for the whole year is only a few thousand dollars. At the other end of the spectrum is Ivy league Law Schools, where tuition can exceed $50,000, and total cost for the year is listed at just under $70,000.
Just because a college or university has a big price tag, don’t take that off your list of possiblilities. Prospective students should still consider these institutions because many charge less than full price. Just about every college offers some student financial aid in one form or another.
Consider the tuition and other costs listed on a school’s website as the full retail price of an item you want to purchase. Often, you can get the same item on sale. When it comes to colleges, whether you get a sale price (discounted price) on tuition and other costs typically depends on how much money you have and/or how much money people have that may claim you as a dependent (such as parents). Of course, it also depends on the generosity of the schools — how much money they have and are willing to distribute freely.
Prospective students can make more informed choices of which school they choose to attend and the actual cost by reviewing this Great Resource: The Government’s College Navigator Website.
Fortunately, for any accredited college you might want to attend, the government keeps track of these “sale priced” or discounted educational costs.
One thing to be aware of here: The “net price” indicates the average net price. Some students with financial resources around the American median will get a better deal than this, others will not. So you’ll want to check whether any other factors may help raise or lower the net price. Standardized test scores, high school GPA, and minority status may all play a role raising or lowering the expected net price for you personally.
You now face three choices, and they’re not mutually exclusive. Indeed, many people combine all three:
- Work your way through school.
- Obtain scholarships.
- Take out student loans.
Financing Your Education By Working And Paying As You Go
Working your way through school would be ideal, it was at one time the only way and very feesible, but as costs rise it has become very difficult.
This method of paying for school usually demands you have a job that pays considerably more than minimum wage or else that you have some additional support that effectively raises you standard of living above minimum wage (such as living in mom and dad’s basement and eating at their table for free).
A student earning minimum wage and trying to pay as they go will end up facing a catch 22: you need education to earn more money, but you need to earn more money to get educated. Herein lies the opportunity cost of financing your education this way.
If you’re working your way through school, a portion of what you earn will need to go toward your educational costs, and the rest has to go toward your living expenses.
Time is money. If you’re working, you’re not studying (there are exceptions, such as night watchmen, who may be able to read and work at a desk at least some of the time they’re on duty). You need to be honest with yourself about your work habits and whether you’re going to be able to balance the demands between school and work.
Scholarships As A Means To Finance Your Education
Prospective students, make sure that you’re not missing some scholarship opportunities for which you may be eligible and which may significantly reduce your educational costs. Whether it be one or two large scholarships or multiple small schholarships it is a means to finanace your education. Scholarships are essentially free money given to students that fit certain profiles. Sometimes the money isn’t totally free, as with athletic scholarships, where you are expected to play a particular sport in school, or with academic scholarships, where you are expected to maintain a certain GPA or take part in certain honors courses. Be sure to note what, if any, the requirements are to obtain specific scholarships. In addition to those scholarships that are given out by the US Department of Education and universities themselves, thousands of scholarships are given out each year by private organizations who aim to recognize students who have special skills, excel in extracurricular activities, have a financial need, or have specific career goals.
The interesting thing about scholarships is that there’s a scholarship for just about anything you can imagine from interest in golf to sheep herding. There are numerous private scholarships that people endow in memory of a deceased loved one who had some particular talent, skill, or interest. Private foundations can also offer scholarships directly, instead of through a particular school.
Searching for scholarships can be daunting at first, but do not get distracted or overwhlemed. Read through the entirity of the requiremnts needing to be met to apply for each scholarship. Just becuase a scholarship is named after a Football QB, doesn’t mean it is an athletic acholarship. Remember that it never hurts to apply for free money. The more scholarships you apply for they mosre likely you are to decrease the amount of out of pocket funds you have to come up with to pay for your education.
If you are interested in attending certain schools, you definitely want to research the websites of these schools for the scholarships they offer. Also, if you’re graduating from high school, you’ll want to see what scholarships are available for your high school’s graduates. States also offer scholarships to high school graduates that require certain courses to be taken during their high school years and attend a public state college. Often times, local companies and individuals will endow scholarships for graduates of your high school who are on their way to college.
If you still can’t make ends meet and finance a higher education then there are student loans.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
First follow these tips to help with the process of financing your educaiton:
- Start early. The financial aid process can take months. Don’t expect to be able to apply for loans and scholarships last minute. You will not get the same results. Further, if you are rejected from a financial aid option, allowing yourself time to apply for another one is an excellent way to ensure you get the money you need. Most financial aid applications are accepted between January 1st and June 30th.
- Get information from schools that you are interested in. Many schools have counselors who will help you find the financial aid options you need.
- Talk with your school counselors. If you are not currently enrolled in a high school with counselors, checking out the library is an excellent alternative. Librarians are trained to assist individuals in the process of seeking out financial aid.
- Fill out a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid). This will provide schools with the information they need to make decisions about loans and scholarships.
- Accurately and honestly report your total family income.
- Make sure you photocopy the application forms you fill out so that you have a record of them for your personal files.
- Review all application deadlines. Put them on a calendar. Getting rejected from a scholarship simply because you didn’t read the fine print is a huge waste of your time.
- Look into alternative loans and scholarships. Getting help from the school of your choice can be easy and informative, but it’s always a good idea to look into other options. Check out the Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans.
- Have somebody close to you look over your application. Make sure there are no mistakes before you turn it in.
- Remember that the money you borrow must be repaid. Do not use it frivolously, and don’t take out more than you need.
Types of Financial Aid
Currently over half of the 15 million people pursuing a degree at some level of postsecondary education cannot pay for their educaiton on their own and depend on financial aid of some sort. Fortunately, there are many forms of financial aid available to students.
Many students applying to college get an acceptance letter along with a financial aid offer. This means that a college or university has figured out, according to the family’s income, how much money a student will need to pay for college. Unfortunately, too many of these students sign at the bottom of the page without knowing what the offer really entails for their financial future. The loan offer may have a poor interest rate, no grace period, or very harsh penalties. Before signing any student loan agreement, do the following:
Read everything. If you don not understand something ask a counselor. Don’t be an uninformed borrower.
Look at other options before locking yourself into a loan right form the beginning.
If you know financial aid is something you will need in order to achieve your educational and career goals, it’s important to plan ahead and consider the pros and cons of each option available.
Financial aid can be broken up into two categories: need-based aid and non-need-based aid. Need-based aid is for those individuals who cannot afford to go to college. Those receiving non-need-based aid are usually recipients due to some sort of merit such as academics, sports, or extracurricular activities. Aid can come in many different forms. These are some of the most common forms:
- Fellowships: These are academic fellowships that exist to students as a way to help fund a specific area of study or research. Although fellowships are a form of “gift aid” and do not need to be repaid, they must be used for the attainment of a certain academic goal, such as the funding of a semester-long research project. This makes fellowships a better option for upper-level undergraduate or graduate students that already have a declared major and emphasis of study opposed than for younger students, who may not have yet chosen a specific career path.
- Grants: Federally funded grants are another form of “gift aid” that usually don’t have to be repaid, as long as the recipient meets a set of minimum academic requirements. Like scholarships, grants can be used to pay for anything academically related, including tuition, fees, books, or housing costs. Pell Grants, SMART grants, Academic Competitiveness grants, and Supplementary Education Opportunity grants are all available for students through the federal government; however additional state-sponsored grant programs may be available for certain students as well.
- Loans: Federal and private student loans are generally the least popular of the financial aid options due to the fact that they must be repaid. Although interest rates and repayment rules vary depending on the lender, federally funded loans are typically the most popular for students because of their low interest rates and flexible repayment schedules. Although a number of private lenders offer education loans as well, these are usually seen as the less favorable option with higher interest rates and penalties. More information below.
- Work Study: Often included as part of a federal financial aid package for undergraduate students, work study is a government program that pays students to work part-time at their university during the academic school year. Students can use these funds to pay for whatever they wish, rather than just academic-related expenses, and are often given a more flexible schedule during peak periods such as midterms and finals to allow ample time to study.
5 Things you need to know about student loans:
1. Loan Types: There are federal loans and private loans, loans directly form your school or a combination of all these. Different loan types can have very different terms and conditions, so be sure you know what types of loans you’ve got.
2. Loan Balance: Once you’ve tracked down all of your loans, you’ll want to find out what your total loan balance is. This will help you determine a plan for repayment.
For your federal student loans, www.nslds.ed.gov will display your loan balance. For private and other student loans, you’ll want to check with your lender.
3. Loan Interest: Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan—it’s borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest. As interest accrues, it may be added to the total balance of your loan if left unpaid. As a recent graduate, you may want to consider making student loan interest payments during your grace period to save money on the total cost of your loan.
4. Repayment Options: Depending on the type of loan you have will greatly determine the options you have to repay it. Federal student loans offer great benefits, including flexible repayment options. Some options include tying your monthly payment to your income, extending your payments over a longer period of time, or combining multiple loans into one.
5. Repayment Terms and Benefits: Familiarize yourself with the repayment terms of all your loans. Be sure to know these items on the repayment plan of your loan:
- Ways to save on interest, like enrolling in automatic debit
- Options for paying more than your monthly required payment
- Forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge options
If any point you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. That’s what they’re there for.