Many students are discouraged, when it comes to making college plans because of how expensive it has become to get a good education. It costs, on average, $7,000 a year to attend public colleges or universities, and $24,000 to attend a private institution.
Most high school students or their families don’t have that kind of money just lying around. To reach your goal of getting a college education takes looking at all of the financial aid options including scholarships, grants, and unfortunately, sometimes loans.
Scholarships are financial aid given to students to help pay for their education that are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid. These funds typically cover all or part of tuition expenses. Some scholarships also cover room and board.
Scholarships are awarded to students for a number of different reasons. Some scholarships are academic, meaning that you received them based on you grade point average. Some are athletic, given to student-athletes to cover their tuition in exchange for playing on a school team.
There are thousands of other types of scholarships that are given out for reasons that range from being of Native American decent to being left-handed. You can apply for scholarships many different ways and through many organizations but the most popular way to apply is through Scholarships.com, the largest free and independent college scholarship search and financial aid information resource on the Internet.
Fastweb.com is another online resource to consider.
Grants are also a good option to fund your college education because you do not have to pay them back. Most grants are based on need, your ability to pay, your student status and your academic requirements. The most popular type of grant is the Federal Pell Grant which provides aid to undergraduate students who are financially disadvantaged. The amount of money that you receive from the federal government is based on your estimated family contribution. To be eligible for grants you need to fill out the Free Application or Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year.
A number of states, like California, offer grants to help various students, but these typically are given to residents of the state to attend schools of higher education within the state.
Loans can also be helpful in paying for your college education, but should only be used if you’ve already applied for scholarships and grants and still cannot cover your school costs. Loans have to be paid back after you graduate or if you drop below full-time enrollment status in school. Usually there is a grace period of about six to nine months before you have to start making the payment.
Federal student loans are the most popular option here because they are guaranteed to all students who apply regardless of your credit score. There are also private student loans, which you can apply for through your school or bank. These loans carry the highest interest rates and should be used as an extreme last resort.
To qualify for these loans, you usually need to have good credit or what is called a “creditworthy co-signer.” Most of these loans can be applied for through Sallie Mae, the nation’s leading provider of saving, planning and educational finance programs.
Loans have a bad reputation, but truthfully they can pull you through some hard times. Just make sure to apply responsibly. Interest rates can be really high with certain loans, so make sure you shop around and find something that you can handle. Only apply for what you absolutely need. Spending that refund check is easy; paying it back isn’t so easy.
Most schools have a work-study program that can serve as another means of income to help pay for college. Work study provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with a financial need and students are usually placed in a job on campus such as in the cafeteria, library, or the campus bookstore.
The work study is designed to enable students to handle the everyday expenses of being in college such as food, school supplies and textbooks. In most cases, work-study alone would not be enough to completely fund your education.
The military is an alternative means to pay for college. In most cases, if you join the military (Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines or Army) they offer tuition assistance after you have dedicated four years of service to the country. For more information go to www.military.com/education.
Upromise is an organization that helps students pay for college by returning a percentage of the money they spend on a daily basis back to them in an account set up to pay for college expenses. Friends and families can also sign up for the program, and a percentage of what they spend at restaurants, airlines, grocery stores, drug stores and many other venues will go toward the student’s college education. For more information, go to www.upromise.com.
If a student truly wants to get a college education, money should never be the reason that dream isn’t manifested into a reality. There is money everywhere just waiting to be claimed. Often, scholarships are just given anyway to anyone who applies because only one person applied.
Tip: Start searching for money for college early. If you apply for money while you’re still in high school, things will run much more smoothly. And remember, there is nothing worse than studying all night and then being told you can’t take your finals because you aren’t fiscally cleared.