9 Tips for Paying for College

Student debt is nearing nearly $1 Trillion dollars. Our current generation is going into debt to attain a better lifestyle, and in turn burying themselves in mountains of consumer, government, and private debt. I have several friends who graduated with over $40K in student loans and are earning less than $40K a year. I have other friends who are making a good living $65K, but are still paycheck to paycheck because of their thousands of student loan debt. The pie chart below illustrates how the average family pays for college. Parent income is the number one source, followed by grants & scholarships, and student borrowing.

Here are 9 Tips for paying for college:

  1. Start saving for college early: I had nearly 3K of my own savings to start off freshman year. I saved all my money from my part time job in high school and some cash competitions I won. This allowed me to buy my computer and things for my apartment room. I think my parents had saved up several thousand.
  2. Work with high school counselors to find scholarships:I worked with my school counselor and registrar to find scholarships. Through the applications they gave to fill out, I earned nearly 8K in scholarship money to be used for my freshman year expenses.
  3. Make sure you know, and meet deadlines for financial aid: It’s surprising to see students lose out on financial aid because they did not turn in their application early enough or they simply forgot to apply, or follow up with financial aid department. Believe me nothing will happen unless you push financial aid to answer your questions. I had a high school classmate who delayed college for a semester because he missed financial aid deadline. Financial aid is also on a first come, first serve basis. I, also, saw another student miss aid because he did not turn in the right documentation.
  4. Lessen costs by starting at a nearby community college and living at home: I went to straight to university, but I know a lot of students who saved themselves lots of money by doing their basic at a community college. I took 5 classes during the summer at a community college to advance in my degree. The classes were easier and cheaper!
  5. Earn your degree faster by taking summer courses OR taking more classes during the semester: Like I said before, I took summer classes. I also took 21 hours every semester. In many universities, after 15 hours, students don’t have to pay for additional classes. This is how I finished my bachelor’s in 3 years.
  6. At some colleges, you can take 15 credit hours as the same cost as the typical 12 hours. Or 21 hours at the same cost of 15 credit hours. Just make sure to balance out tough classes with easy classes. If you are taking 21 hour, make sure no more than 15 hours are heavy duty, intense courses. You do not want your GPA to drop due to taking on too much of a load.
  7. Get a part time job off or on campus: I worked during summers or vacations. It helped me reload my savings fund. I definitely recommend finding an on campus job like campus patrol. The jobs are easy, you don’t have to spend gas to get to them, and they tend to be flexible with your school activities. If you can’t find one on campus, find one close by. I had a friend who did not work all the way through college, relied on student loans, had no scholarships, did not concentrate on school, and did not graduate by one class. After 4 years, she is looking for a minimum wage job. Does not make any sense.
  8. Many community groups and often your parent’s company have scholarships available. But it’s up to you to find these sources of money: I got a lot of local scholarships! Look around and call the organizations to see if they have any. If you move to another city for university, look for scholarships in that community. I did, and got $2000 in local scholarships.
  9. If you have a scholarship, don’t blow it by getting bad grades or acting up:Pretty self explanatory.

Do all these tips pay off? Yes. I received a total of $93,000 to pay for my 4 years of education. My parents paid $16,000. My 4 year education cost a grand total of $109,000. If I had not had scholarships, I would have had to pay $93,000 out of pocket. My parents would not have been able to help me, and I would have graduated with $93,000 in student loans. Since I knew my education was very expensive, I decided to get 2 degrees in 4 years (bachelors and master’s). Did it mean I had to work very hard? Yes. I did have to sacrifice activities with my friends, etc. But it was worth it.

Did you get scholarships to pay for college? Do you have any recommendations?


5 responses to “9 Tips for Paying for College

  1. These are all great tips! I received scholarships, attended classes in the summer (I only did this 1 semester though, should’ve done it more), and worked. I wish I did have less debt though, but I had to move out young and pay for all my bills. Wish I could’ve lived at home though!

    • I could not live at home because I moved to a different city. I went back for one summer, but the rest of the summers I stayed in the city. Part of me wishes I would have gone home, I would have saved money, but I did not want to move back in with my parents. I really liked my independence. There is a price to pay for everything.

  2. I went to a public university that gives very generous academic scholarships. In fact, pretty much all the public schools in KY are generous, but I’m sure it varies from state to state. For Kentucky high schoolers I definitely recommend working towards a high GPA of a 3.5 or above and shoot for a 28 (preferably 30) or above on the ACT. With that, you are almost guarentee to have a full scholarship somewhere in state.

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