Getting that college degree is a great feeling, but many people shy away from the commitment due to concern over finances. There is no denying that college can be expensive, but there are many tools available that can make it more affordable. Understanding the different ways that you can pay for your education can ease some of your anxiety. Most people use a combination of methods to pay for their education, and each year may require a different formula to ensure everything is covered. As you get more experience and develop a better understanding of how funding works, you will find the process more routine and less stressful. You may also find more opportunities open up to you as your progress through your degree track. If you hit roadblocks, reach out to your school’s financial aid department for advice.
Grants should be your first stop when you are ready to pay for school. Grants are free money and do not need to be repaid. You should fill out the FAFSA early in the admittance process so you can get the ball rolling with all aspects of federal financial aid, which includes grants. You are unlikely to qualify for enough grant money to cover the entire cost of your undergraduate degree, but it is a great way to start. Since you are not required to repay this money, it is important to get anything you qualify for.
Loans are money that you borrow to pay for your education. There are different types of student loans available. The federal government offers subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and you can also finance your education with private student loans. Different loans have different terms. There are borrowing caps on the amount you can borrow from federal loan providers. If you do borrow from the government initially, you may find a private lender, who will not have a borrowing cap, is necessary to fully cover the cost of your education. Combining federal and private loans allows you to fully cover your expenses.
Scholarships are a great way to cover some of the costs of your education. Like grants, they do not need to be repaid, which makes them a great way to pay for college. You may qualify for specific scholarships due to your major, interests or hobbies, or through civic organizations. Many scholarships offer smaller awards, but this money adds up and can be a great way to lower your costs.
There are a variety of ways to work while attending college. You may choose to work over the summer, saving as much as possible, or you may choose to work throughout the year. You must find a way to balance the demands so that your education doesn’t suffer. Your financial aid office may be able to help you find employment. Work-study programs are common. These programs are great because they employ on a flexible basis that allows you to focus on your studies while still earning some money. Work-study employers understand that you are a student and their scheduling and expectations reflect that.