College costs are very difficult for many families to afford. A typical student will pay for college from a combination of the following:
- Family support
- Federal financial aid
- Private loans
- Student financing
Scholarships take on a variety of forms. Some states have scholarships for students who meet academic standards. Universities also offer scholarships for students of higher academic standing. Other scholarships come from private sources and have criteria specified by the donor. In some cases scholarships are only available to students who have established an academic record at the university. Unfortunately most scholarships are based upon academic standing and few are available to students who are not at the top of their class. See the topic: Obtaining a Scholarship for guidance on what it takes to get a scholarship.
Most students have some form of family support. In some cases, parents have been contributing to a college savings account. In other cases, grandparents are a major contributor. All too often family support is very limiting.
You may qualify for federal financial aid if your family’s contribution to your education is limited. There are three sources of federal aid:
- Grants – These are funds that do not need to be repaid
- Work Study – You are given the opportunity to work while you attend college
- Federal Loans – funds that are provided to you that you must repay when you graduate
There are many different qualifications for these funds that your college can help you navigate.
Private loans are another source of funds. In this case you or your parents take out a loan from a local bank. The challenge to this source of funds is the interest rate you will be charged.
Some students will finance a major share of their college expenses through their own earnings from jobs. Unfortunately these jobs can take away from time you need on classes.
No matter the choice of funds you use to pay for college, there are some things you can do to make your college experience more affordable.
- Select a college that won’t put you in debt into your middle age. The earnings potential in many majors is as good if not better from lower cost colleges.
- Do everything you can to graduate in eight semesters. Extra semesters can be very costly in college costs and in lost earnings.
- Make a serious effort to work with your financial aid office. There are very likely financial support packages you are unaware of and will not know about unless you make the effort.
- Place a cap on what you are willing to borrow. It makes no sense to place yourself in debt for half of your adult life to pay for college.
- Consider options for paying for college that don’t involve debt. These include:
- Alternating work and school
- Taking advantage of military assistance programs for members of the armed services
- Changing schools to a less expensive one
- When you move into a major, work with your advisor to see if you can work as a teaching assistant or research assistant.
- Become a resident assistant in the dorms. Generally this will lead to free room and board and a small stipend.
- Work with your career service office to find an internship or a campus-based job. There are a number of good opportunities, but you need to work for them.
Every student who wants to get a college degree can find the finances to pay for it, but this is something you will need to put in the effort to get the results you want..