It's true that the earlier you start saving for college, the better, but only using your savings can be unrealistic for many. According to College Board, the average budget for a full-time, in-state student at a four-year college is over $27,000 a year. And as this number continues to grow each year, paying for school out of pocket is becoming increasingly impractical. Use these four ways to supplement your savings when paying for higher education.
A grant is money you will not have to pay back if you continue to meet the eligibility standards. This form of financial aid can come from the federal government, your state government, your school, or a private or non-profit organization.
Tip: Check the deadlines! Many grants require you to fill out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), BUT the deadline you need to meet to get FAFSA submitted may be different for the grants offered by your school, the state, and the federal government. Your best bet is to get it done early.
Scholarships, like grants, do not have to be repaid. Thousands of scholarships are offered through non-profits, communities, employers, colleges, and many more organizations each year. There are generally two types of scholarships offered, scholarships based on financial need and merit-based scholarships. A great place to start to find scholarships you qualify for is at your school's financial aid office. Another excellent resource for finding scholarships is fastweb.com. This free service helps students find scholarships and financial aid opportunities.
Tip: It's all about those deadlines! You can apply for as many scholarships as you want, so prioritize them by the due date to ensure you get them all in on time.
Federal Work Study programs allow students with financial needs to work part-time to pay for their education expenses. The types of jobs are primarily within civic education or your courses field. Students pay rate is usually set at the federal minimum wage level but can also depend on the type of work they are doing.
Tip: Federal Work Study is generally awarded on a first-come, first-serve bases, so submit your FAFSA on or close to October 1.
Though it is not always possible, students should make taking out a loan their last option. A loan is borrowed money that you will need to pay back with interest and can take up to 10 years or more to pay back. Students can take out either federal or private loans. While federal loans are generally considered the better option for most, there are benefits to both, depending on your needs. Federal loans have a more flexible repayment plan, but they limit how much you can borrow annually.
Tip: You don't need to accept the total amount offered. Only borrow what you absolutely need. Your future self will thank you.