I have to pay for college… Part One: Student Loans
If you’re like most high school seniors or thinking about going back to college, the prospect of having to pay for it can be overwhelming if you haven’t saved up a lot of money. According to a 2015 marketwatch.com survey of 5,000 Americans, about 62% had only about $1,000 in savings and another 20% didn’t even have a savings account. Additionally, according to collegedata.com, the average tuition in America for the 2015-2016 school year is $9,410 for out-of-state residents attending a public college, $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending a public college, and $32,405 for private colleges. This cost does not include textbooks or living expenses if you are not living at home or with family who can support you. Finally, additional expenses such as computers, lab fees, tuition, etc. must be considered. So the big question is how does one person pay for all of this?
The answer is not easy; Paying for college usually involves several strategies. Assuming you haven’t saved anything for college, the most obvious solution would be to fill out the FAFSA or the Free Federal Student Aid Application with the United States Department of Education on their website. This will tell you if and for what types of student loans you may qualify. This is usually the best option if you need to borrow money to pay for college, as interest rates are usually lower and the repayment period is more flexible. However, you should only borrow money after you have exhausted all other options for financing your education, because high student loan debt after graduation can be a burden. If you wait to make payments, you will continue to accrue interest on your student loan, which will only add to the total amount you owe and make repaying your loan even more difficult. Consider any type of loan to be in the same category as an emergency; only borrow the money if you absolutely have to!
I have to pay for college… Part Two: Free money
Have you ever heard the phrase “nothing is ever free”? Well, “free money” for college like scholarships and grants is essentially “free money,” with a different form of cost. For example, Fund for Thought requires you to complete an application and write an essay in order to be considered for a scholarship. The cost in this example would be the application fee ($20) and the time spent completing the essay package. The “cost” is small compared to the possibility of getting $2000 “free money” for college. Scholarships and fellowships are “free money” because you don’t have to pay them back, they are an award of some kind of qualification or achievement.
You should apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can find. The best places to go are online scholarship databases, a student advisor, or the scholarship office of the university you will be attending. These offices usually have extensive lists of current scholarships and can help with questions about the application. In addition, local civic organizations, churches and businesses will sponsor scholarships available to students in their area. Check your local newspaper and community announcements and you may find “free money” with little competition. The bottom line is that if you put in the time to research scholarships and grants, you have a better chance of getting “free money” for college.
I have to pay for college… Part Three: Scholarship Search
We wanted to elaborate on the scholarship search as there are so many resources out there that it can be a daunting task for the individual scholarship recipient. There are different types of scholarships that can be categorized by different attributes. We thought it would be best to make a list to give you some ideas and pointers to start your search.
1. Scholarships for high school students
2. Undergraduate Scholarships
3. Masters Scholarships
4. national grants
5. International Scholarships (Canadian Scholarships, Exchange Scholarships)
6. free scholarships
7. Online Scholarships
8. Full Ride Scholarships
9. Social Service Scholarship
10. Company Sponsored Scholarships (Pepsi Scholarship, Walmart Scholarship, McDonald’s Scholarship)
11. Racial/Ethnic Origin Scholarships (Native American Scholarships, Hispanic Scholarship Fund)
12. Area study grants (journalist grants, law grants)
13. Scholarships in areas of need (teaching scholarship, early learning scholarship)
14. Merit scholarships based on academic or sporting achievements
This list is by no means extensive, but the goal is to get you started. Getting free money for college is possible for everyone. By applying for as many scholarships as possible, you increase your chances of an award.
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Thanks to Michele Mackin