Getting a college education is a way of investing in yourself. As a college student, you may not be able to have your parents support you financially.
Your parents may not be able to help you pay for college, especially if you grew up in a family with minimal money or one that is stretched thin among siblings.
Whether you’re paying for college entirely on your own or with some help from your parents, it’s critical that you understand how to pay for college without their help. You have many options, but there isn’t necessarily one clear path to this.
If you’re like other students and families, you’ll have to scrounge money from multiple sources.
According to the Education Board, the average yearly cost of your college can range from $3,440 to $32,410, depending on the type of school you attend. Figuring out how to pay for college without support from your parents will help you acquire the degree you need without going into debt.
This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my Disclosure Policy.
Certain types of financial aid are better than others. Here are 10 steps to help you get started:
Complete the FAFSA for your college education
According to the College Board, undergraduates received about $9,850 in grant money during the 2019-20 school year. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Help is often the best approach to qualify for grants and federal financial aid (FAFSA).
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid, fill out the Application. The FAFSA is your entrance ticket into the world of financial aid.
By submitting it, you will be considered for financial help, which may include federal grants, work-study programs, student loans, and some state and school-based aid.
Fill it out as quickly as possible because some institutions give money out based on first-come, first-served. To be evaluated for financial aid, some schools ask you to complete the CSS profile in addition to the FAFSA.
Apply for scholarships
You don’t have to wait until you’re a high school senior to start looking for scholarships. In fact, starting earlier may be advantageous.
You might be eligible for an academic award if you’ve earned it. An academic scholarship could cover the cost of tuition for your whole undergraduate degree, depending on your college of choice and your high school scores.
If you don’t qualify for an academic scholarship when you graduated from high school, you can work toward it during your first year of college. You should also keep an eye out for scholarships that do not require a GPA.
Unlike student loans, scholarships do not require repayment. There are many scholarships available; utilize a scholarship search tool to narrow down your options. While many scholarships need you to complete the FAFSA, the majority of them also ask you to fill out a separate application.
You might also explore scholarship opportunities through other organizations and businesses. The more time you spend studying and applying for scholarships, the higher your chances of getting more money are. Don’t forget to apply for the Student Loan Hero $5,000 scholarship while you’re at it.
The Evans Scholars Foundation awards full-ride scholarships to hundreds of golf caddies every year. However, you must be a caddie for at least two years to be qualified for the scholarship.
To qualify for The Evans Scholars Foundation scholarship, you must begin caddying at the very least during your sophomore year of high school. This will make you eligible by the time you apply at the start of your senior year.
Choose an affordable school for your college education
Choosing a school that is reasonably priced for you can make paying for college much easier. Consider enrolling in a community college or technical school to avoid putting a strain on your finances.
If you want to attend a traditional four-year university, you should find one that offers a lot of financial help. Consider each school’s net price or the cost to you after your grants and scholarships.
Use the net price calculator for each institution to assess how much you’ll have to spend out of pocket or how much you’ll need to borrow.
Get a job
Working full-time while completing a full course load during college education may not be ideal if you want to maintain an active social life. However, it can help you pay for school and save money. Working part-time may be a better option.
Part-time income would definitely not be enough to pay all of your expenses, but when combined with scholarships and grants, it could help.
As a college student, you may get work opportunities on campus. A college work-study job fulfills several requirements – it provides a source of income, work experience, and the possibility for valuable relationships.
Part-time jobs for college students with financial needs are funded under the federal work-study program.
To apply for work-study, you should complete and submit the FAFSA. If you qualify, your financial aid package will include “work-study” listed on your financial aid award.
However, just because you’re eligible for work-study money doesn’t mean you’ll receive it. You must obtain an eligible work-study position on campus and work for a sufficient number of hours to earn all of the help you are qualified for.
You should also consider investigating off-campus for potentially higher-paying jobs if you have a car or access to public transportation.
Apply for grants
If you don’t complete the FAFSA for your college education, you’re leaving valuable dollars in unclaimed federal Pell Grant funds. If you’re eligible for it, you’ll get Pell money if you fill out the FAFSA and update it each year that you’re enrolled in school.
In addition to the Pell program, the federal government offers a variety of other awards that you don’t need to repay. There are also grant programs in many states that you can apply for.
Find the agencies that administer college grants in your state using this map from the Education Department’s website. Apply for any state grant programs that you might be eligible for._ _ _
Tap into your savings
To pay for tuition, room and board, and other college-related expenses, you’ll most likely have to dip into your income and savings. You may need to cover 45 percent of your college expenditures this way.
If you or your parents have money in a 529 plan (a state-sponsored tax-advantaged college investment account), contact the plan’s administrator to get access to the funds.
Apply for tuition assistance programs
If you want to join the military, you should do so as soon as possible. Tuition assistance programs are available from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines. Many of them cover up to 100% of your tuition and expenses when you enroll for a college education.
Because these programs constitute a financial investment for the military, you’ll need to serve for a particular number of years to be eligible. So you shouldn’t enlist just for the money.
Alternatively, some employers offer tuition assistance programs to their employees. When you’re seeking employment, keep that in mind.
Consider taking out federal student loans
When alternative options for paying for college education fall short, federal student loans might assist you to fill the gap. Furthermore, they do not conduct a credit check, so you will not be required to use your parent’s credit history to obtain a loan.
If federal student loans are insufficient to cover all of your college expenses, private student loans offer an alternative. Before deciding on a private student loan company, make sure to evaluate numerous options.
If you’re new to credit or don’t have a good credit history, you may need a cosigner for private loans. Look into alternate cosigner options if your parents won’t or can’t sign on for that responsibility.
Obtain private loans
Borrow private student loans as a last resort for paying for your college education. Compare your options before choosing a lender if you need to use private student loans.
Shop around for the lender with the lowest interest rate and the most generous borrower protections. The protections might include flexible repayment plans or the ability to put your loans into forbearance if you’re having trouble paying them back.
Remember that any money you borrow will have to be repaid once you graduate. Many student loans, with the exception of federally subsidized loans, accumulate interest while you’re in school, meaning you’ll have to repay more than you borrowed.
A student loan calculator can help you figure out how much you’ll owe in the future based on how much you borrow now.
Minimize your college education costs
If you’re looking for ways to pay for college without the help of your parents, increasing your salary isn’t necessarily the greatest option. Instead, consider adding more affordable universities to your college list or starting at a community college and then transferring to a university later.
Create a budget and keep track of your spending and expenditures and find ways to save money. Consider areas where you can save money each month to make it simpler to get by during your college years.