I Have to Pay for College… Part One: Student Loans
If you are like most high school graduates or thinking of going back to college, the prospect of having to pay for it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a lot of money saved. According to a survey completed in 2015 of 5,000 Americans by marketwatch.com, approximately 62% only had about $1,000 in savings, and another 20% didn’t even have a savings account. Additionally, the average cost of college tuition in America today according to collegedata.com for the 2015-2016 school year is $9,410 for in-state residents at a public college, $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending a public college, and $32,405 for private colleges. These costs do not include text books or living expenses if you are not going to be living at home or with family who can help support you. Finally, there are supplemental expenses to consider such as computers, lab fees, tutoring, etc. So, the big question is, how does a person pay for it all?
The answer is not simple; paying for college usually involves multiple strategies. Assuming you have nothing saved for college, the most obvious solution would be complete the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, with the United States Department of Education on their website. By doing so, you will find out if and what types of students loans you may qualify for. This is usually the best option if you have to borrow money to help pay for college, because interest rates are typically lower and the term of repayment is more flexible. However, you should only borrow money if no have exhausted all other options in paying for your education, because a large student loan debt upon graduation can be burdensome. Interest will continue to accrue on your student loan if you wait to start making payments, only adding to the total amount you owe and make paying back your loan even more difficult. Consider any type of loan as if in the same category as an emergency; don’t borrow the money unless you absolutely have to!
I Have to Pay for College… Part Two: Free Money
Have you ever heard the term, “nothing is ever free”? Well, “free money” for college such as scholarships and grants are essentially “free money”, with some other form of cost involved. For example, Fund for Thought requires that you complete and application and write an essay in order to be considered for a scholarship. The cost in this example would be the application fee ($20), and the time spent completing the essay packet. The “cost” is low compared to the possibility of receiving $2000 of “free money” towards college. Scholarships and grants are “free money” because you are not required to pay them back, they are an award for some sort of qualification or achievement.
You should apply to as many scholarships and grants as you can find. The best places to look are scholarship databases online, a high school guidance counselor, or the financial aid office of the university you will be attending. These places usually have extensive lists of current scholarships available, and can help if you have questions about the application. Additionally, local civic organizations, churches, and businesses will sponsor scholarships available to students in their area. Check your local newspaper and community announcements and you may find “free money” with little competition. The bottom line is that if you put in the time to search for scholarships and grants, the chances of receiving “free money” for college are greater.
I Have to Pay for College… Part Three: Scholarship Search
We wanted to elaborate on the scholarship search because there are so many resources out there, it can be a daunting task for the individual scholar. There are several different types of scholarships available, and be categorized by different attributes. We thought that it would be best to compose a list to help give you some ideas and direction when beginning your search.
1. scholarships for high school students
2. undergraduate scholarships
3. masters scholarships
4. national scholarships
5. international scholarships (Canadian scholarships, exchange student scholarships)
6. free scholarships
7. online scholarships
8. full ride scholarships
9. community service scholarship
10. company sponsored scholarships (Pepsi scholarship, Walmart scholarship, McDonald’s scholarship)
11. race/ethnic origin scholarships (native american scholarships, Hispanic scholarship fund)
12. area of study scholarships (journalism scholarships, law school scholarships)
13. scholarships in areas of need (teach scholarship, early intervention scholarship)
14. merit based scholarships based on academic or sports achievement
This list is by no means extensive, but the goal is to get you started. Receiving free money for college is possible for everyone. By applying to as many scholarships as you can, you will increase your chances of an award.