I did not have a college fund growing up and sometimes I wish I had started saving money as a child.
I knew that I wanted to go to college though my choice of major was changing from week to week. It was still something that I could have saved for and maybe I should have saved for.
But, not all families are in a situation where they can save for college. That’s why I want to discuss a few ways to find free money for college to help offset this expense.
Some ways to save money on college expenses include: attending a state funded school (which means usually getting a tuition discount for being a state resident), and buying used books or renting your books.
And while those might be options for saving money, how do you find free money? Taking out a loan, either on behalf of the parent or the student, is not always ideal. Yes, while it may seem like the most convenient option, paying off your loans may take quite some time. Loans can also result in unnecessary debt on both the parent and student’s ends.
5 Ideas for How to Find Free Money for College
Grants and Scholarships
The good news about grants and scholarships is they don’t have to be repaid but obtaining one of these is highly competitive. Most students who qualify for these spend little time hanging out with the guys.
They strive to excel in all courses of study. Once you’re awarded a grant or scholarship you’ll probably have to maintain a certain grade level in college and may be required to take certain courses.
Work Study Programs
Work Study Programs are as the name implies. You work and study. This means you can work during the summer or part time during the school year. Most colleges are very helpful to students who need to work to make ends meet and can help you find employment that won’t interfere with class schedules. Many jobs are on campus alleviating any transportation problem.
Merit Based Financial Aid
Merit Based Financial Aid can reward students who have kept their nose to the books during high school. This is not related to financial need but awarded to students who meet certain academic requirements. Merit Based Aid can also be given to students who have done well, or have excelled, in some special talent.
Need Based Financial Aid
Need Based Financial Aid is based on the students and their parent’s ability to pay college costs. Talk to your school guidance counselor either in high school or college for the proper forms to make application. As a matter of fact, be ready to fill out many applications and forms for any of the grants, loans and scholarships you apply for.
After you fill out your FAFSA, you’ll more than likely be given an option to apply for state funded aid as well. And don’t forget to check the college that you’re applying to for available scholarships and grants for incoming students.
Apply For a Pell Grant
Every year, the U.S. Government provides millions of dollars’ worth of grants to help students finance their college education. A grant is an ideal way to help pay for college for two reasons: first, grants do not have to be paid back, and second, grants are awarded based on need. What this means is that depending on your financial need you can receive a federal grant or Pell Grant worth anywhere from $400 to $4000 dollars. Typically, Uncle Sam sends the money directly to your school of choice to apply directly to tuition.
However, if your tuition is already paid for through scholarships or other financial aid, the money is dispersed directly to you to cover other expenses such as housing, books, and transportation. To apply for a Pell Grant all you need to do is fill-out a Free Application For Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, which you can do online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
The application will take about an hour, but you will need your Social Security Number, driver’s license, income tax return, bank statements, and investment records.
Paying for college doesn’t have to break your bank or saddle you with thousands in student loan debt. By figuring out where to find free money for college, you can limit the out of pocket expenses significantly.
You can also look for other ways to cut back on your college expenses.
3 Ways to Cut Back on Your College Expenses
The cost of education is on the rise. States are spending less on higher education, forcing colleges and universities to pass the extra costs onto students. Tuition and fees have nearly doubled at some institutions, and there’s no relief in sight. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are several ways to help allay the rising cost of college.
Accelerate Your Degree
Essentially, accelerating your degree means cramming a semester’s worth of material into a six-or eight week session. Many schools are now offering these accelerated sessions, and while classes can be intense, the benefits are that they allow you to take classes more quickly and thereby move up your graduation date.
By accelerating your degree, you spend less time in college and can start your career sooner, which saves you time and money. In addition to these accelerated sessions, you should also consider summer school or evening classes, which are often cheaper than regular classes and which also speed up the learning process.
Become a Transfer Student
One of the best kept secrets in higher education is that of transferring. The idea here is to earn as many credits as possible at a low-cost community college before transferring to a pricey, elite school prior to graduation. This way you can still get a diploma from a prestigious university but at a fraction of the price.
Furthermore, because community colleges are less competitive, you will be a better candidate for scholarships and other financial aid. What’s more, by attending your local community college, you can also reduce room-and-board costs by bunking at your parents’ house.
Go Where You’re Wanted
Conventional wisdom says you should go to school you want. But if you’re trying to cut costs, maybe you should consider going to the schools that wants you. In other words, find the college or university that is dying to have you as a student, fire off an application, and then watch the discounts roll in.
Star students get discounts on tuition as well as housing and other fees. The trick is to find the school that thinks you’re a star. Start by checking out the smaller, regional colleges in your area. Chances are you may be exactly the kind of student they’re looking for.
Did you know that in New York, you can attend college tuition free? Available through the state university system (SUNY); New York is the first state in the country to make both two-year and four-year public higher education tuition free.
There are still other expenses involved, of course. But one of your biggest expenses is already taken care of. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.