The costs of getting an education rise each year, while our incomes decline. The Great Recession has made everything involving money and financing difficult, including going to college. However, in our difficult financial climate, the price of not getting a college degree is even more costly. Parents must consider how they will pay for college, long before the first application is completed.
Qualifying for Financial Aid
To qualify for financial aid, students must fill out a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). The information on your FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal student loans and grants and work-study programs. After you have submitted your FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid package from the schools that you have been accepted. The financial aid package is a listing of the amount and type of aid you are eligible to receive. When viewing it, you will see information about various grants and loans that you are being offered. Whether you are going to graduate school or the work force after college, your major, the city you want to live in and the lifestyle you want to lead should all be considered when deciding whether to accept grant money, which you don’t have to pay back versus student loans.
Getting a Scholarship
Whether for educational excellence or community service, scholarships are ideal because you don’t have to pay them back. Here’s how to find them:
- Look at free scholarship search services
- Talk to your high school guidance counselor about scholarships given to students in your area
- Research national scholarship organizations like the National Merit Scholarship Corporation
- Many organizations offer scholarships to their members.
- Companies such as Coca-Cola and Walmart provide scholarships to employees
Tips for Paying for College
- If you have the opportunity to take AP exams, take them. They can count towards college credit and allow you to graduate in less time
- Plan out your college career and look to graduate on time or early
- Live off-campus- In many cities, this is a more affordable option than living on campus.
- ROTC and AmeriCorps will pay for your education in exchange for few years of service.
- If you have young children, consider opening a 529 savings plan. 529 savings plans are designed to help parents set aside money for college.