Education

How to Afford College: 5 Tips You Should Know

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Are you concerned about how to afford college? With the total price of a college education in the six-figure range, higher ed is a significant investment — and one that can seem out of reach for the average person. The good news is that there are ways you can trim dollars off of that cost.

Keep reading to learn 5 tips that can help make college more affordable!

1. Submit Your FAFSA Forms

One of your first steps should be to fill out the FAFSA form. You’ll find out what kinds of federal money you can receive. There’s a good chance that the colleges to which you apply will use the form, too, to determine what kinds of grants they are willing to offer.

Filling it out might not be the most fun way to spend an evening, but it can pay off in the long run. When you need some help financing your education, student loans can keep you going.

The form is free to fill out, and you’ll need to repeat the process for each year that you’re in college. And even if you’re coming from a family with a higher income, you can still qualify for federal support.

Be realistic about what you can afford, and how much debt you’re willing to take on. Many college websites offer calculators so you can determine how much you’ll end up paying after loans, grants, and tuition.

2. Pay as Much In Cash as Possible

If you’re in a situation where you have savings or another college account at your disposal, put that money to work. The more tuition and room and board fees you can pay for in cash, the less student debt you’ll have to pay back down the road.

It’s important to keep in mind that any loans you take out for college will be accompanied by interest when it’s time to repay them. That interest can add up quickly, so you’re better off minimizing the loan amounts. And if you choose a private loan, you might get socked with a pretty steep interest rate.

You might need to live a little more frugally or take on a part-time job if you’re trying to pay for more in cash. While that will require some discipline, the reward is that you won’t have to deal with repayment plans and accrued interest once your degree is in hand.

3. Go With a Less Expensive School

While the big-name schools might tempt you, sometimes the better choice financially is to look elsewhere. When it comes to costs, not all schools are the same — and you’re better off researching to understand what kind of financial package you’re getting.

Keep in mind that private institutions are not necessarily more expensive. In other words, don’t get too distracted by the sticker price. The schools with strong endowments and scholarship funds actually could offer you a better deal than a financially-strapped state school without much money to give.

Additionally, you’ll want to keep in mind that student loans will need to be paid back once you graduate. If you don’t want to be burdened with paying out a chunk of your paycheck toward your loans for years or decades after graduation, go for the school that costs the least.

The bottom line is that it’s important to do the investigating, compare offers, and ask questions of a college’s financial aid office. Being able to pay for college is possible if you go after the right offer and push a little to show your interest.

4. Apply For Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants can save you valuable dollars, too. Some colleges will offer them to you without requiring an application if your credentials impress them. Private donors help fund many scholarships at colleges that could connect with your grade point average, test scores, or areas of interest.

What kinds of scholarships exist? There are scholarships for just about anything you can imagine. You just have to commit the time to find them.

Talk to your local chamber of commerce to find out if there are any community grants you’d qualify for, and check with your parents to see if their workplaces offer any scholarships for the children of employees.

Spend an afternoon scouring the internet for options. You might be surprised by how many types of scholarships are out there. You can apply for scholarships targeting anything from left-handed people to puppet enthusiasts!

5. Knowing How to Afford College Might Mean Having a Work-study Position

Work-study positions are another great way to offset costs. Through the federal work-study program, you can take on a campus job that can provide you with some additional income. The number of hours you can work and wage will be determined according to your financial status.

As long as you have demonstrated financial need, you can qualify. Just touch base with your college’s financial aid office to learn more information.

Another perk? Work-study jobs typically are in your field of study, so you get a great experience to list on your resume. You’ll also have the opportunity to work alongside faculty and staff to build valuable connections.

If you need to work while you’re in school, look into online options that will be flexible around your work schedule. Full Sail University offers technology degree programs that are available online, so you can gain skills in hot fields like web design or cybersecurity at any time of day.

Make College Happen

Are you still wondering how to afford college? With some discipline, comparison shopping, and hard work, you can make it happen. A college education opens so many doors to new careers, so start mapping out a plan to achieve your degree.

When you’re ready to find fresh tips to make your lifestyle better, check back for more great articles!

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