Top 10 Ways To Pay For College now we’re going to start off with the non-loan options the options where you know it’s basically like free college money or you know you work your way through college that sort of thing and then at the very end I’m going to talk about how you can take out loans if that’s something that you need to do.
But there’s a very good chance that you won’t even need to take out loans if you’re somebody who’s early enough on in your you know high school slash college experience, some of these are going to be very obvious and some of them are going to be things that you haven’t thought about but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not very very important.
Now there are a couple of different secrets to getting scholarships and I’ve done an entire post on this and I went into a lot more detail on that in those Post and I go very deep into detail in my college 101 course but basically if you start early enough in high school and you start applying for scholarships you know for instance there are certain scholarships you can only apply to as a freshman.
Certain scholarships you can only apply to as a sophomore but if you are able to start early enough applying for these scholarships just with the small ones the ones that are like maybe a thousand dollars here five hundred dollars here fifteen hundred dollars there you can get a significant amount of your college paid for.
And those are great especially if you start applying for them early on I also recommend doing essay contests as well and the earlier you start applying the better because you know with a lot of them you’re gonna have to submit like a one-page essay but the thing is is many of them are gonna have very similar prompts.
And so once you do enough of them you’re gonna see a pattern and basically, you know you write a certain amount of essays you can basically just copy-paste what you’ve written before and so the time it takes to apply to a scholarship goes from maybe like two or three hours to 30 minutes.
Now, these little scholarships you can apply to 500 you know a thousand dollars fifteen hundred dollars sometimes two thousand dollars those are fantastic don’t get me wrong but really the big ones the ones that are the low-hanging fruit the ones that you absolutely need to go for if you can are the ones that the schools themselves offer.
So a lot of the time the schools will offer huge scholarships we’re talking like ten thousand dollars a year fifteen thousand dollars a year twenty thousand dollars a year but there’s a catch you have to apply for them and you have to meet certain criteria.
So for instance you know some of them will say you have to have like a 3.8 GPA plus you have to score you know like a 31 on the act something along those lines but it depends on the college some of them they only care about the act score right so if you score like a certain score on the act or the sat then they’ll give you the scholarship.
Others really only care about your GPA so if you get a certain GPA they’ll give you the scholarship some of them care about both together for some of them it’s going to involve an essay contest and more than that but many of these colleges offer really really good scholarships.
And so paradoxically in my opinion especially with the people I’ve worked with when it comes to the question do grades matter they definitely matter in high school because you can get some of the most ridiculously amazing scholarships out of high school whereas in college much of the time unless you’re trying to go to grad school or like something very specific grades actually doesn’t matter all that much.
So if you are early on in high school there are two things that you should start doing you need to start applying for those little scholarships and then you also should be trying to get good grades and making sure that you get a good score on the act or the sat which is like books that you can buy for that you can start studying early if you want start taking practice tests and that right there alone might pay for pretty much all of your colleges or very close to all of it.
So that’s definitely the low hanging fruit and you know you should definitely be going for that especially if you’re still early on in high school but even if you’re you know a junior a senior or even in college you should still be applying to these scholarships because it can just save you so much money I mean it’s literally free money.
Choose An Affordable College
My second tip on this list is to choose an affordable college right don’t go to the colleges that are charging you know 75,000 a year I think the most expensive colleges last year were charging 77 almost 78,000 a year for tuition and that’s just tuition alone that doesn’t cover your cost of living you know if you go to a dorm room uh your cost of food a lot of your other college costs that doesn’t cover any of that it’s just tuition alone.
Unless and this is a big unless you’re able to get one of those big juicy scholarships that covers like almost all of your costs so what you want to do is you want to look at all the colleges that you’ve applied to and you want to look at which scholarships they’re offering you and just the basic thing that you should do is just make a spreadsheet it’s super easy you can use you know excel you can use google sheets just make a spreadsheet list all of the colleges that you’ve applied to all the ones that accepted you and then what scholarships they offer.
And then figure out what the expense is going to be for the college after the scholarships right after all the scholarships they’re offering you basically all the money all the grants etc that they’re offering you and that’s the real cost of the college for you.
Because ultimately that’s what you’re going to end up having to pay and then basically go with the college that’s the most affordable now if it’s very close if there’s a couple of them they’re like within a couple of thousand dollars of each other then you know okay don’t worry about it just go to whichever one you want to go to whichever one you feel in your gut like you know you really want to go to that’s no problem.
But if there’s a huge difference like twenty thousand dollars a year ten thousand dollars a year guys it’s a no brainer definitely choose the one that’s giving you the better deal because i mean at the end of the day the college is showing you if they’re you know giving you more money they’re giving you a better deal they’re showing you that they care more about you right.
So they want you enough that they want you to go to their campus and they’re showing that by offering you really good scholarships or grants and that really says a lot because they are literally showing you right up front that they care about you and that probably means that the rest of your experience there is also going to be good.
Now if you’re in a situation where you know you don’t have any scholarships you started this whole process late don’t worry most people are actually in that situation most people don’t start thinking about scholarships and taking the act and getting really good grades until they’re junior or senior in high school and that’s totally fine.
What i suggest for you then is to still try to keep your costs low and one great way to do that is to go to a community college for your first two years you’re going to be taking the same classes anyways and at a community college they’re going to be so much cheaper and in my opinion, in many cases, they’re going to be a lot better and the reason for that is because at most universities the first classes that you take are basically classes where there’s going to be like 300 400 people taking it,
The professor’s there but i mean you’re not really getting much one-on-one time because again it’s 300-400 people and at many universities, the professor’s main job is to research right so they are a researcher first and a lecturer or a professor second whereas at community colleges most professors are predominantly going to be teachers first.
And the class sizes are also going to be smaller so you could really argue that you get a better education in your first two years at a community college a lot of the time than you do at university now again not true at all universities I know some of the smaller ones you’re going to have smaller class sizes, yes I know I can already see it people in the comments just I went to a university and there are only 20 people in my class okay.
Okay I’m just saying much of the time or a lot of the time when people go to state colleges to have you know 10 20 000 plus people this is what they are going to find and I know this because I have talked to many other friends who’ve gone to state colleges you do need to make sure that the community college you go to you can transfer your credits to an in-state school to have in-state tuition,
Because that’s the cheapest way to do it but just doing this alone you are going to save yourself a ridiculous amount of money community colleges are usually maybe like thirty-five hundred dollars a year so that’s gonna be seven thousand dollars for uh two years and then in-state tuition is usually about nine thousand dollars a year so overall you know eighteen thousand dollars plus seven thousand that’s about twenty-five thousand overall costs.
For your tuition to go to college that way that’s pretty manageable so that means that if you earned about seven thousand dollars a year working part-time you would pay for all of your tuition
Accelerated Degree Programs
And then some another thing you can consider doing and this is the next one on the list is basically figuring out how to get into an accelerated program so there’s a lot of programs out there that are accelerated where something like a degree that might take four years usually maybe it takes two and a half years or two years in some cases a degree that might take eight years usually can take like six years or sometimes less.
So for instance i went to an accelerated program for pharmacy school and i also was able to cut some time down in undergrad and so a degree that usually takes people about eight years to get only took me about five years and nine months and i was able to get a PharmD also known as a doctorate of pharmacy.
So this is a great route to save money because basically it’s more than just the time and the money you’re saving so you know in my case I saved two years and three months of my life and that’s time that i was able to work as well so it’s not just money it’s not just the time it’s also opportunity cost.
Because during that time that my friends were still going to school for the next two years plus I was working I was getting the experience I was networking and doing all the things that you can do when you get an entry-level job.
Now i know most people focused on like bachelor level degrees you’re not you know there are not that many people who are thinking about getting their masters or doctorate at least not at this point but there are also some schools out there where you can cut the time it takes to get your bachelor’s degree.
Now i have to admit there’s some degrees that are just really difficult and even doing them in that four-year stretch is going to be pretty hard right we’re talking about engineering degrees physics degrees they’re probably going to take you four years but there are many degrees that just you know and I don’t want to make people mad but objectively speaking they’re not as difficult as engineering or physics and there’s simply no reason why they should take you four years.
And then there are universities like western governor university that’s one i’ve talked about before where they offer programs where it’s basically go at your own pace, so if you’re somebody who’s able to take classes really fast then you can finish degrees and sometimes like two and a half years two years that are usually four years.
So this is something you really have to research because there’s a lot of sketchy programs out there like i said this could be an entire Post just this one point alone can’t go into too much detail right now but this is a fantastic option for the right person in the right situation getting the right degree.
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Taking Extra Classes
Another option is kind of a similar way of cutting the time down that it takes to get your degree and that is taking extra classes either during the semester taking extra classes before you even start college or taking extra classes during the summer, okay and this is the next tip,
which takes extra classes now there are many different ways to do this you can test out of classes in high school by taking ap also known as advanced placement,
or ib international baccalaureate classes you can also take CLEP which stands for college-level examination program exams you can take online classes from other universities while you’re at one university,
Or you can just take extra classes during the semester or whatever type of program you’re on maybe you’re like a quad master or a trimester program you can take extra classes or you can take extra classes during the summer.
There are so many different ways to do this um it’s very important that you talk to your college counselor and make a really good plan for this because it can get kind of complicated because you know a lot of colleges for instance they’ll be like oh you have to take this class,
before you take this class you have to take x class before you take y class and y class before you take z class and z class before you take a class so you have to be kind of strategic about the order that you take the classes in but by doing this it’s very easy to shave off like one year of college.
Sometimes even more sometimes you can shave off like a year and a half two years and again this doesn’t just save you time and money but it’s also opportunity cost and the opportunity cost is arguably even more important than the time and the money that it saves you.
Cut Your College Costs
Now the next tip on the list is going to be to cut your college costs and there are so many different ways that you can do this I’ve made an entire Post about different ways you can cut your college costs but just to kind of summarize it very quickly the big things you want to save money on are going to be tuition housing transportation and food,
And then one other one that can be kind of expensive is college supplies so if you can save money on those five things if you can really just make a plan you don’t have to get too detailed with the budget but if you can make a plan to save money on those five things you’re really going to keep your costs low.
You know one obvious way to save money on housing is going to be to get roommates so if you’re able to get roommates during college you know an apartment that might cost you fifteen hundred dollars,
normally maybe you’re only going to be paying 500 a month instead of saving money on food, for instance, you know crock pots are great um pre-making your food basically meal prepping another really great option this is a great way to save money.
I know when I went to college I found that you know between classes and stuff I would end up going and eating at the food court all the time and that can really add up in terms of cost.
So you definitely don’t want to be doing that you want to be bringing food with you if you know that you’re going to be hungry during a certain time between classes when it comes to transportation a lot of colleges are very bike-friendly so you a lot of the time you really don’t even need a car you can also just use the bus system in many cases,
But if you are gonna get a car try to be smart about it try to get a car that’s at least five to ten years old and it’s already taken the brunt of its depreciation and it’s also good to get a brand that has a very good reputation it’s not going to break down and it’s also good on gas so something like Toyota or honda.
Get A Job
Now the next tip is going to be for you to get a job right um being able to work during college being able to say that you worked during college is going to make you so much more attractive to potential employers,
most of the time in most careers none of the employers are going to care about your GPA they’re not going to care all that much that you were you know the treasurer of this group or the VP of this group if I’m being completely honest what they really care about is your skills and your work experience and work experience is a way to show that you probably have skills and you’ve been able to demonstrate them.
But beyond that getting a job is going to make you money while you’re at college and again even if you just make a small amount every year like even five thousand dollars a year you’re just working a part-time job one day a week something along those lines maybe even one day every two weeks it’s still going to add up over time.
Doing Side Hustles
Now the next one on the list is very similar to getting a job and that is doing side hustles now i used to be super, super into side hustles i did all kinds of different ones when i was younger and basically it’s kind of like just mini entrepreneurship.
So for instance i would use my truck to help people move people move things from point a to point b they don’t want to hire like one of those big fancy moving companies they don’t want to rent like a pin ski or anything like that because it’s very expensive they just want to move a small amount of things,
Maybe like one couch or just like a couple boxes something like that but it’s too big to fit into their car so what do they do they look on craigslist they look on facebook marketplace and they find someone who has a truck and is willing to let them use it or willing to drive it themselvesand help them unload and offload all of the stuff.
And you can get paid super good money we’re talking like 50 plus dollars per hour doing this other side hustles i’ve done are i would go to different like boat shows gun shows health shows etc and i would sell stuff that’s a little more advanced and that actually started off as a job and then it turned into a side hustle but that was the best side hustle i’ve ever done the main thing that i sold was actually eyeglass cleaner.
And i would routinely have thousand dollar weekends where i’d make a thousand dollars in a weekend um i had 800 plus dollar days before so yeah it can be very very good if you find the right side hustle for you even just buying and selling things on craigslist or Facebook marketplace can put a little bit of extra money in your pocket.
Joining The Military
So it’s very well known that if you join the military you’ll have access to what’s known as the gi bill and that’s essentially going to pay for your college degree there’s also rotc scholarships there are other things that you can do like army reserve for instance that’s one thing where essentially at least back when i looked into it it’s like one day a month you go and train,
And they pay you a certain amount of money to basically be in the reserves on top of that there’s a lot of scholarships and other opportunities the right person there’s definitely some upsides and some downsides to joining the military.
So next we’re going to be getting into the options where you would likely be going into debt or using kind of unconventional methods of paying for college so the first option of course is for you to complete what’s known as fafsa that is the federal application for federal student aid now you should apply for this even if you don’t plan on taking out any student loans and the reason for that is because by applying to it.
It actually automatically applies for whatever school that you’re applying to their grants their scholarships their loans etc so there’s certain grants and scholarships for instance that you can only apply to if you’re from a certain socioeconomic status.
And they’re not just going to believe you if you know mark that down so they have to actually see your fafsa application so even if you’re not planning on taking out loans at all you should still fill out fafsa absolutely apply for fafsa and you should really apply to it as early as possible i believe the current application date is october 1st so really you should be applying to it like on october 1st if you can.
Ask Your School For Financial AID
Now if that doesn’t work for you the next step you should take is you should actually ask for more financial aid from the college itself and the reason for that is because there might be special programs that the college has where they offer either scholarships grants or in this you know some cases loans to people who really need it who are in certain situations right.
So you know let’s say you’re in a situation where you had a lot of medical bills they might have a special scholarship for people who you know went through that it’s just really bad timing maybe you’re in a situation.
where you have a child and you’re having to go to college while you’re taking care of a child they might have a special scholarship or grant for that maybe you’re in a situation where you got laid off from your job recently again they might have some opportunities for you there as well so definitely go in and ask them at the financial aid office of your university.
Another option that you can consider is especially if you’re somebody who’s currently working while going to college is you can actually ask the IRS for help there are certain educational tax benefits that the IRS offers as well as the government and you should especially you know make sure to talk about this to your accountant right very very important you tell your accountant what type of situation you’re in.
Because if you’re going to college and you’re also working at the same time there’s a very good chance that you are going to be able to apply to these tax benefits and this can save you in some cases like 2,500 a year in other cases it can save you like 2,000 a year.
there’s the aotc or the American opportunity tax credit that’s one of them another one is the lifetime learning tax credit right so make sure you tell your accountant when you’re filing your taxes that you’re going to college and they might be able to help you out with that.
Take Out Loans
And then the last option this should be you know the last thing that you do is to you know to give it up and actually take out loans. if you’re in a situation where for whatever reason you know you can’t you can’t pay for college that’s totally fine that’s why the whole student loan system works in the first place that’s what it’s designed to do is to help people who are in that situation.
Now I really recommend that you try to stick to federal student loans if you can going the private route is pretty risky those types of loans are going to have higher interest rates and you’re going to have less protection.
Going the federal route especially in undergrad is probably going to be the best way to go and then there are ways of paying down your loans in the best possible way and that is going to depend on how much you have what situation you’re in what your interest rate is on and a bunch of other things that again i would have to make an entire post in order to cover.