If you’re in college or planning to be there soon, one of the most difficult and pressing problems of embarking on a college career is trying to figure out how to pay for it all. Finding money for college isn’t always an easy task; though some students may not have too much trouble most will run into money problems which can plague them years after graduation.
One of the most popular and first places many students look to find money for college is to Mom and Dad. In many families, it’s customary for parents to pay for their children’s education or if they can’t afford to cover the child’s entire education, at least help for part of it. Some families won’t provide for their children’s education simply due to economics; the $35,000 per year some private universities charge for tuition can put a huge stress on a family’s finances, especially if they haven’t set up a college fund or have a number of children who want to attend college. Other families won’t help cover tuition because they see going to college as a big step in their child’s independence, and this is sometimes seen as a step toward financial independence as well.
If you can convince your parents to cover all of your tuition, great, but most aren’t so lucky. The next obvious place to find money for scholarships is to go after free money in the form of scholarships. Scholarships are broken into two types: need-based and merit-based. Need-based scholarships are awarded to students who can demonstrate that their family isn’t able to cover their tuition and living expenses. Note that even if your parents aren’t planning on helping you pay for college their respective incomes are factored into whether or not you’re expected to be able to pay for your tuition and expenses. Merit-based scholarships are based on your academic achievement, activities, work experience, and volunteer activities over the course of high school. When applying for merit-based scholarships don’t forget to include all of your activities and explain why any of your grades are particularly bad, especially if it was due to illness or another cause out of your control.
Finally, if you can’t cover your costs through parental help and scholarships, it’s time to apply for student loans. Start by filling out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) and look at the different loans available. Getting money for college this way isn’t great since it’s not free; you’re going to have to pay it back someday. However, it’s better than nothing, and you may be able to put off paying them off for awhile.