If you are asking yourself, “how am I going to pay for college?” then you aren’t alone. College is an excellent investment that can take you far in whichever career path you choose. However, the cost of attending college can be intimidating if you aren’t aware of the funding options available to you.
From the best private college loans and student loan refinance options to applying for grants, here we will cover 6 of the best ways that you can pay for college.
1. Take Advantage of FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be your first stop when paying for college. Even if you don’t think you will qualify, submitting a FAFSA application means you will be in the pool for receiving federal and state aid. Aid might include federal grants, student loans and state and school-based support. The sooner you submit your FAFSA application, the better, as some school funding programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Some schools require you to fill out a CSS Profile before they consider you for aid, so always check if this is a requirement for your school.
2. Choose an Affordable School
There is a lot of variation between different colleges regarding their fees and this will need to be a pivotal factor to consider when picking a college. If you have a specific budget that you need to stick to or you don’t want to have a large student loan from your studies, then choosing an affordable school is one of the most critical factors for making sure you can pay for higher education.
Set the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay and filter your college selection with this figure. Remember to balance the cost of a college with its academic quality, career opportunities and location to avoid losing educational value. The other benefit of affordable school is that with a lower student loan, it will be much easier to secure an excellent student loan refinance option to bring your debt into one place for a lower interest rate.
3. Apply for State Grants
There are many federal and state grants that you will have access to through your FAFSA application. However, there are also additional state grants that you can apply for outside of the FAFSA program.
You can look at this map to see what grants your state offers in your region of the country. Once you have selected the ones you are eligible for, apply for all of them rather than just one or two.
4. Apply for a Private Student Loan
Private student loans are a great option if you don’t qualify for a federal student loan or if you want to search for a private loan provider that offers lower interest rates. Private loans are also an effective option to refinance student loans and bring them together into one place with lower interest rates.
It will help if you research a variety of private student loan options because some can be much more expensive than others. Watch out for high-interest rates and short repayment terms when searching for the best private college loans for college aid and student loan refinance options. You can read more here to learn about the best private college loans.
5. Research Scholarships
When it comes to finding ways to pay for college, you can start your search in your sophomore year or earlier. Researching scholarships early is a great way to get ahead before you start your senior year since many require preparation and specific skills on your part.
For example, the Evans Scholars Foundation awards scholarships to golf caddies, but to be eligible, you need to have at least two years of experience as a golf caddy. Other examples are sports scholarships where you need to have some athletic success already.
Spend some time looking online for a scholarship search tool like the College Board Scholarship Search and see what interests and skills you can build while in high school to increase your chances of success.
6. Sign Up for a Work-Study Program
As a part of your FAFSA application, you will also be able to apply for a range of work-study opportunities through the Federal Work-Study Program. A work-study job on your college campus is an effective way to earn additional money, gain work experience and build connections with people. If you are eligible for the program, you will have to find an on-campus job covered by the program and then work enough hours to earn the financial aid.
7. Build Up Your Personal Savings
The chances are that while in college, you will have some unexpected expenses that will need to be covered by your own or your family’s savings. It is an excellent idea to develop a plan for saving money before college, whether it’s from a part-time job, cutting back on unnecessary expenses, or working with your family to put money into a 529 plan account.
Going to college can be daunting when confronted with the annual fees. The reality, however, is that there are many different ways for you to pay for it, from applying for the best private college loans to securing a scholarship.
The key is to start researching the above options early and apply for as many different funding options as possible, even if you aren’t sure you will get them. For anyone wanting to refinance student loans, remember to research a wide range of options to find the lowest interest rates with a repayment schedule that is right for you.
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