Asking how you pay for school is like asking how to learn another language or become healthy. While there are many possible answers, there isn’t always a single clear path. In fact, you might need to gather funds from several sources.
Look into Private Student Loans
Student loans can cover the gap between what you can afford and your financial aid. But shop around before choosing a lender. Look for one that offers borrower protection options, such as flexible repayment. After graduation, you’ll have to pay back what you took out, and you’ll likely accumulate interest as well. So, you’ll ultimately end up paying back more than what you originally took out. Use a student loan calculator to estimate what your monthly payments would be with a private student loan.
Fill Out the FAFSA
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for anything, still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It will potentially help you qualify for work-study jobs, federal grants, school-based aid, and student loans. Fill it out as soon as you can since some schools only offer aid to the first to fill it out. Plus, you might also need to fill out the CSS profile to get aid. After filling out the FAFSA, you might qualify for a work-study position. The federal work-study program offers part-time jobs for those with financial need. While this job can provide income to pay for your college expenses, it also offers experience and connections, both of which will help you in your job search later. Once you have submitted the FAFSA, you’ll likely see work-study on the financial aid letter. But being eligible for a position is only the first step. You also have to find an eligible job on campus and work those hours each week.
Look for Scholarships
Even if you are still in high school, you can still begin your search for scholarships. By starting earlier, you might be more likely to get the available funds. For example, there are scholarships for golf caddies, and you have to be a caddy for a couple of years to be qualified. Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay scholarships back. Many are available, and there are tools to help you narrow down your options. Many require you to have submitted the FAFSA, but you may also need to fill out another application.
Go to an Affordable College
It will be easier to pay for school if you pick one that has a reasonable price tag based on your finances but still has a solid reputation. You could even start at a technical or community college to avoid putting extra strain on your bank account. Or consider taking online classes for your general education requirements. Of course, not every major is flexible enough to do this. Some require certain prerequisites before you can enter the program. If you do go to a traditional four-year school, look for one that offers good financial aid packages. Calculate the price of the school after scholarships and grants and decide how much you’re willing to borrow.