HOW TO PAY FOR COLLEGE


Now that you’ve finally answered the many questions you had about your future and returning to college, your next question most likely is: “How am I going to pay for college?”. Fortunately, there are several options out there to assist you so that cost will not prevent you from reaching your goals.

 

The U.S. Department of Education this year will provide more than $116 billion to help millions of students and their families pay for secondary education. Visiting their website, www.ed.gov, is a great place to start. There, you can explore the various types of financial aid that are available from the government and learn how to apply.

 

Another site that you should visit before all others is www.fafsa.ed.gov and fill out the FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if you are applying for any type of financial aid, every college will want to see your FAFSA score first. The score is based on your income and assets, but don’t automatically assume that you make too much money or have too much to qualify for some financial assistance. Even if you intend to pay for your schooling out-of-pocket, you should still fill out a FAFSA application online. There may be grants and scholarships that you qualify for that you are unaware of, but again, your FAFSA score will be required.

 

Next, make an appointment to speak with your school’s financial aid advisor. These people are priceless resources for information regarding your options for covering the costs of college. They can help you apply for student loans, but even more importantly, are very knowledgeable with the numerous grants and scholarships that are available and that you may qualify for.

 

Apply early and often. Scholarships and grants are given out on a first come, first serve basis. If you procrastinate and wait too long to apply, you may find that you indeed did qualify but the quota has been reached and no more are available for the school year. Also, don’t limit yourself to one or two applications. You may not be awarded the scholarship or grant that you were applying for, but you may qualify for others that you assumed you would not. So apply as soon as you can and for as many as you can.

 

We must warn you that in your search for financial aid, grants, and scholarships, you will most likely come across some offers that are actually scams. How can you identify these? Some are pretty simple to identify. For example, if a company tells you that you are “guaranteed” to be awarded a scholarship but they just need you to pay an application or origination fee first, don’t fall for it. Scholarship applications from legitimate sources are free, so they will never ask you to pay anything upfront or even charge you to help you apply. Never fall for a scholarship offer where you are asked to provide your credit card or bank information to “hold the scholarship for you”. Legitimate scholarship sources do not require this—ever. By doing just a little research and using legitimate sources for information, such as government websites and your financial aid advisor, you can avoid becoming a scam statistic.

 

The investment you put into your education will always pay dividends. By doing just a little work, you can greatly minimize or even completely eliminate the costs of your college education. Following the above suggestions and working with legitimate sources for financial aid and advice will help you reduce your financial concerns and help you concentrate on what’s most important—the brighter future that lies ahead for you.