To pay for college, constantly submit the FAFSA first. Accept grants, scholarships, and work-study before student loans. Many or all the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a webpage. But this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Asking “How do I pay for college?” Is similar to asking, “How can I get healthier?” Or, “How do I learn another language?” There are lots of answers, but there is not always one definite route.
If you are like many students and families, you are going to cobble together funds from several sources. Some types of financial aid are better than others, so use the following advice in this sequence
Ways to Pay For College Without Loans
1. Fill out the FAFSA
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid even if you don’t expect to be eligible for any help, says Ben Miller, senior manager of postsecondary education in the Center for American Progress. The FAFSA is your ticket to the financial aid arena. Submitting it sets you into the running to get financial aid including federal grants, work-study chances, student loans, and some state and school-based aid.
Fill it out as soon as possible because some colleges award cash on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition to the FAFSA, some schools also need you to finish the CSS Profile to be considered for help.
2. Search for scholarships
You don’t need to wait until you are a senior in high school to start your scholarship search. In reality, it may pay to begin earlier. However, you have to be a caddie for at least two years to qualify, so you’d have to begin caddying during your sophomore year in high school in the latest to be eligible by the time you employ at the beginning of your senior year.
Scholarships, unlike student loans, don’t need to be repaid. Thousands are accessible; utilize a scholarship search tool to narrow down your choice. When many scholarships require that you submit the FAFSA, most also have an extra application.
Paying for college will be significantly easier if you opt for a school that’s reasonably priced for you. To avoid straining your bank account, think about starting in a community college or technical school.
If you decide on a conventional four-year college, start looking for one that’s generous with aid. Concentrate the online cost of each school or the charge to you after grants and scholarships. Use each school’s online cost calculator to estimate the amount you’ll need to pay out of pocket or borrow.
For example, if a 28,000-a-year school doesn’t offer you any aid, and a $60,000-a-year school offers you $40,000 in help, the school with the higher sticker price is more affordable for you.
3. Use grants should you qualify
A 2018 NerdWallet study found high school graduates who do not complete the FAFSA leave behind billions of dollars in unclaimed federal Pell Grant money.
Do not make that mistake. As long as you submit the FAFSA and renew it each year you are registered in school, you’ll get Pell cash if you are qualified for it.
In addition to the Pell program, the federal government offers several other sorts of grants, which do not need to get paid back. Many countries have grant programs, too. Use this map on the Education Department website to find the agencies in your country that administer faculty grants. Then look up and apply to state grant programs you may qualify for.
A college job checks multiple boxes: It provides an income, work experience, and potentially valuable connections. The national work-study program funds part-time jobs for college students with financial need.
If you qualify, then you will see”work-study” recorded on your financial aid award. However, just because you’re eligible for work-study doesn’t mean you get that cash. You have to discover an eligible work-study occupation on your campus and work enough hours to earn all of the aid you qualify for.
4. Tap your savings
Realistically, you’ll probably have to dip into your earnings and savings to cover tuition, room and board, and other college-related expenses. The normal family covers 43% of college costs that way, according to some 2019 report by Sallie Mae.
If you or your parents saved money in a 529 plan — a state-sponsored tax-advantaged school investment accounts — access the funds from contacting the plan’s administrator.
5. Take out federal loans if you Must
You do not need to say to all of the help you are provided — especially student loans. As a rule of thumb, the goal for student loan obligations which don’t exceed 10% of projected after-tax monthly income your first year out of school.
If you need to borrow to pay for college, take out federal student loans before private ones. Federal loans have benefits that private loans do not, for example, accessibility to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.
6. Borrow private loans as a last resort
Should you need to utilize private student loans, compare your options before you opt for a lender. Shop around to find the lender that offers you the lowest interest rate and the most generous borrower protections, such as flexible repayment programs or the option to place your loans into forbearance if you’re struggling to generate payments.
Remember: Once you graduate, you’ll have to repay any money you borrowed. Many student loans all but federal subsidized loans accrue interest while you’re in school, so you are going to have to pay more than you initially borrowed. It’s possible to use a student loan calculator to find out how much you’ll owe later depending on what you borrow now.