Starting college or university is a roller-coaster. You are to start fresh in new surroundings, make friends, become independent, and more. The adult reality crashes your teenage dreams the moment you start having a grown-up talk about money. First, you cannot wrap your mind around how to pay your tuition bills. Then, you do not know where to make extra on your expenses. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • Prioritize completing the FAFSA, actively seek scholarships and grants, and be strategic with loans.
  • Opt for fee-free banking, make informed money choices, and leverage student discounts to maximize savings.
  • College serves as a foundational period for developing sound financial habits, emphasizing the importance of budgeting, cautious borrowing, and understanding the value of money.

This touching subject started a discussion in the online community. A soon-to-be college student shared that they are about to begin their first year of college and they mistakenly believed the cost for the first semester was for the entire year. Not knowing what to do, the future freshman rushed into taking out loans. Yet the tuition fee still remained to be a burden for their single-income family. Being already in too much debt, the student is lost and does not know what to do. Can on-campus job help? Is it possible to apply for some scholarships? What is the amount of money that can help pay out the loans and live through college? In this article, we will try to find answers to these worrying questions. 

How to Pay for College: 5 Tips

Paying for college can seem daunting, but with proper planning and the right resources, it can be more manageable than you think. With tuition costs continually rising, families and students alike need to be savvy about how to fund higher education. Here are five straightforward tips to help you navigate the financial maze of college.

How to pay for college?

Complete the FAFSA Early

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your gateway to federal financial assistance, including grants, work-study opportunities, and loans. Completing it should be at the top of your to-do list when preparing for college. The information you provide through FAFSA allows the government and schools to determine your eligibility for aid. Some schools award financial assistance on a first-come, first-served basis, so submitting your application early can be advantageous. The FAFSA requires details about your family’s income, so it’s crucial to be thorough when filling it out. Users in the online community shared their pieces of advice:

“It’s very good advice. Always try to apply for FASFA even if you doubt whether you qualify for it. I personally got grants from the government that helped pay a decent amount for me. Grants I don’t have to pay back.”

Seek Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are like golden tickets for college – it’s money you don’t have to repay. While colleges offer institutional scholarships, don’t overlook local scholarships from community organizations, nonprofits, or even places of worship. These might be smaller in value compared to national scholarships, but they often have less competition, increasing your chances of securing them. As for grants, they’re typically need-based. For instance, the Pell Grant is a significant federal grant program that many students, unfortunately, miss out on simply because they don’t complete the FAFSA. Research state-level grants too, as many states have programs to aid their residents. Former college and university graduates shared their experiences:

“There are a wide variety of scholarships, fellowships. The nice thing about scholarships, fellowships, and grants is they are free money; you don’t have to pay them back.”

Be Strategic About Your School Choice

Selecting an affordable school can significantly ease the financial strain. Community colleges, technical schools, or trade schools can be cost-effective options for getting a quality education without the hefty price tag. If you’re leaning towards a four-year institution, focus on the net price, which is the cost after scholarships and grants. Sometimes a school with a higher sticker price might end up being more affordable due to generous financial aid packages. Many schools provide net price calculators on their websites to help you get a clear picture.

“If you’re still within the first two years of college go to a community and save yourself the money. At this point, with classes not starting yet, you can still get a full refund. Many community colleges are basically free if you have any kind of state scholarship. Even if you have to pay it is way cheaper. When I went to community college I took day classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and took night classes the other nights if I had to. I worked as much as I possibly could and saved every penny I could.”

Take Out Loans Sensibly

If you’ve exhausted all other avenues and still need funds, federal student loans should be your first port of call. They typically offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private loans. Aim to borrow only what’s necessary, keeping in mind that loan payments after graduation should ideally not exceed 10% of your projected income. If federal loans aren’t enough, consider private loans as a last resort. However, be mindful that they often require credit checks, and having a co-signer might help you get better terms.

Consider Work-Study and Employer Assistance Programs

A work-study job can be an excellent way to offset college costs. Not only do you earn an income, but you also gain valuable experience and make connections that can be beneficial in the future. If you qualify through the FAFSA, you’ll need to find and work in an eligible work-study position to earn the money. On the flip side, many companies now offer tuition assistance to their employees. Some, like Chipotle, even provide access to fully-funded degree programs. This can be a win-win, as you gain work experience while having a portion (or all) of your tuition covered. Users from the online community contributed: 

“I would highly recommend working in a restaurant while in school! Work up to serving/bartending. It’s way more money for way fewer hours than other jobs. you can work 2-3 days a week and make 40+ hours worth in a retail job. Usually a flexible schedule and opportunity to pull back/pick up on shifts depending on how school is going.”

“If you can handle it, I’d get a job on nights. I worked nights last semester and had four classes a week. I worked 25-30 hours a week so I made around 430 dollars a week. My grades were okay but I had a lot more time to do homework than I trying to go to school and work during the day. My grades suffered because I manage my ADHD poorly and have terrible study habits not because I was working nights, but I also have zero patience and like no attention span.”

“I got paid ~$700/month at my university job, but I was maxing out my hours there, I think 20 hours a week but I can’t remember.”

“Job on campus will not be enough to pay for school. You will need to build your basic skills to make more money hourly. I would start looking at customer service, customer success or call center work–remotely and build from there. That could then mean, data entry and administrative assistant positions. Adding editing and writing skills would not only add to the skillset but will help with grades.”

“Honestly, what job helped me a lot in college was being a nanny. Usually, very flexible part-time hours pay more than minimum wage. I live in a high-paying state where I made 25/hr to be a nanny while the min is about 15/hr. Overall, it really helped my bills! However, it’s harder to get a job as a nanny if you identify as a male.” 

Jobs That Will Pay for College

Some companies will pay for your college. This is a win-win. Employees get to study for less money, and companies get to keep their best workers. In 2020, almost half the companies offered this help.

While you study, you work at the company. Sometimes you pay the college first, then the company pays you back. Sometimes the company pays the college directly. But, companies have rules. They may only pay for certain colleges or courses. You might need good grades to get the money. Some want you to work for them for a few years before they help. They might not pay for everything, just a part. And, if you leave the company too soon, you might have to pay them back.

If you want a job that will help with college fees, here are ten options:

  • Amazon: After working 90 days, you can get into the Career Choice program. They’ll pay for everything: tuition, books, and fees. But, study at their chosen schools.
  • Boeing: From day one, they offer up to $25,000 each year. This is for special fields like business or aeronautics.
  • Disney: Whether you’re full-time or part-time, Disney may cover your entire tuition. You just have to study with your partners.
  • Home Depot: They offer different amounts based on your job. Managers can get up to $5,000 a year, while others get less. They pay half the costs of tuition, books, and fees.
  • Lowe’s: Team up with Guild Education, and you can study debt-free. They partner with 20 universities, but they also give $2,500 for other programs.
  • Publix: Work 90 days, then get help for your undergraduate studies. They give $4,000 a year, up to a total of $16,000.
  • Qualcomm: They pay the full cost for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. You can pick any good school.
  • Starbucks: If you’re looking to get your first bachelor’s degree, Starbucks will pay for everything. But, you need to study online at Arizona State University.
  • Target: They offer two choices. First, study what they suggest, and they pay for everything. Or pick your own field, and they’ll give up to $5,250 for regular degrees or $10,000 for master’s degrees.
  • Waste Management: Employees, and their families, can get their education paid for. For master’s degrees, they give up to $12,000 each year.
Jobs That Will Pay for College

College is a big investment, but these companies can help. If you’re considering where to work and study, think about these options. Your future self, without a lot of debt, will thank you.

How to Manage Your Money During College

Managing money during your college years is more than just keeping track of coins and notes; it’s about building habits that set the foundation for your financial future. As you step onto the campus, financial choices await at every corner. Whether it’s the allure of the campus bookstore, with its shiny new textbooks, or the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that wafts out every morning from the cafe, temptations are everywhere.

Start by making smart banking choices. Opting for a fee-free checking account ensures that your money isn’t getting nibbled away by sneaky charges. And while you’re at it, why not let your money work for you? A good savings account with a decent interest rate can help grow your funds over time.

Books, a staple of college life, can often come with hefty price tags. But here’s a secret: the campus bookstore isn’t the only place to get them. Look for second-hand copies, explore online deals, or even consider borrowing from the library. Every dollar saved here can be utilized elsewhere.

Speaking of savings, did you know campuses are a goldmine for free food? There’s always an event, a meet-up, or a gathering that offers a meal. Dive into these opportunities, not just for the food, but for the experience and the networking. And while we’re on the subject of food, if you’ve invested in a meal plan, make full use of it. It’s money already spent, so make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

Credit cards might seem like magic, but they can quickly turn into a financial trap. If you decide to have one, use it wisely. Pick one that rewards you, and religiously clear the balance each month. This not only helps you avoid crippling interest but also builds a healthy credit score.

Now, loans might seem like a convenient way to sail through college, but remember, they come with strings attached. Every dollar borrowed is a dollar plus interest to be repaid in the future. So, borrow judiciously.

A student discount isn’t just a perk. It’s a financial tool. Many local businesses, understanding the limited budget of a student, offer discounts. Whether it’s a meal, a movie, or a gadget, always ask if there’s a student price.

The backbone of all this is a well-planned budget. Before the chaos of college truly sets in, sit down and draft one. Factor in everything – from essentials like rent and utilities to indulgences like weekend getaways or those concert tickets. And as the months roll by, revisit and revise it. After all, a budget isn’t static; it evolves as you do.

How to Manage Your Money During College

In conclusion, college is not just an education in academics, but also in financial literacy. Embrace it, learn from it, and remember: every smart financial choice made today is a step closer to a secure tomorrow.


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