Paying for college

Grants, scholarships and loans

Some students fall for the temptation to apply for student loans because they seem to offer easy money. They don’t. They can become very burdensome and stay with you for twenty years or more. See this link: https://www.cfinancialfreedom.com/avoid-student-loan-debt-paying-college/

Not to say that student loans can’t be advantageous and appropriate in some situations. They can be helpful for a person nearing the end of their college career who has not won enough grants or aids to finish. In this case you should be careful in what you select. See “If you must take out loans” below.

Grants and scholarships are far more available than most people think, and researching them is time well spent. They can fund a large portion of your education. But how do you find out about them?

The first step is learning how much federal aid you qualify for. Then you’ll know how much remaining expense you’ll need to cover. This means completing the FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Most colleges and universities assist students with completing the FAFSA form; see the financial aid department of the school you’re attending or plan to attend. The FAFSA must be submitted by March 2 before the semester you plan to start college.  Allow a few hours to complete the form. For an overview see Wikipedia: “Student Financial Aid in the U.S.”  Follow the U.S. Education Department instructions here.

The level of federal aid you receive depends on parental income; the more your parents make, the less aid you get. This doesn’t apply if you’re 24 plus, or married, or a ward of the court, or have a child, or are a veteran. To learn your legal dependency status for FAFSA, see this government guide.

Once you know how much you qualify for in federal aid, jump into your search for scholarships. Start with the financial aid office of the college you’re attending, or the ones you’re setting your sights on. Apply for every scholarship you think you might qualify for.

Begin your research early. Don’t skimp on the time you spend on your search. It’s not too much to search for grants and scholarships ten hours a week or more. You might be repaid beyond your wildest dreams.

Go to www.fastweb.com, www.collegescholarships.org and https://scholarshipbee.com.  If you’re willing to look at unorthodox and odd possibilities, do an online search for “Weird and Unusual Scholarships.” You’ll be surprised at the good things you can find! See this post about far-out scholarships that go begging.

Two easy-to-read books by students who’ve won at the scholarship game are Zac Bissonnette’s Debt-Free U  and Kristina Ellis’ Confessions of a Scholarship Winner. Click the titles to order.

If you must take out loans, be sure they’re federal, not private, and keep them down to $20,000 or so. That way, your monthly payment will most likely be $200-$300. Don’t rely on student loan forgiveness programs to come through for you; some of them deliver what they promise, yet overall their dependability is iffy.

Which school to choose? See the page on this website on Choosing a college or university to help you with the decision that can impact your life hugely.

Working During College

Working more than 20 hours a week while in college full time has been shown to erode grades and push students into dropping out. Off-campus employers might show little consideration for a student’s commitment to education, and can force them into work hours and schedules that interfere with class attendance and homework.

In addition, some work environments such as many fast food restaurants insist on an unhealthy, overly busy pace of work that can make it hard to maintain the positive mindset that you need to succeed as a student.

Find alternatives to outside employment. Meet with counselors in your school’s career center to find out about on-campus work study jobs, including federal work study. Campus jobs can be the absolute best employment for college students because your boss is never at odds with your need to attend classes and do homework.

You can also investigate online work such as Amazon MTurk (data entry) and gig work offered by online services such as Upwork and Fiver, ride-hailing companies such as Uber, and many others offering everything from elder care to cooking. These categories of work are scalable, i.e. you can decide how much time to put in. If you need more cash, you can put in more hours. Many people enjoy these kinds of sidelines and keep working at them well after college to supplement their income.  #####