Whether you're a soon to be college grad, or a soon-to-be college freshman, the question has more than likely come up... more than once. How will I pay for college? Being first-generation American and the first generation of college attendees in my family, my parents were not fully aware of the ins and outs and cut throughs of the college experience. They simply didn't know that there are things you can do to help get the same degree at a much cheaper cost.
Let's face it, college is expensive! According to Collegedata.com, the average in-state tuition at a public university after 4 years totals to over $85,000! Anyone's dream of going to college could possibly be discouraged after seeing the expenses. How could I expect my parents to pay for schooling when they have bills and other responsibilities to take care of?
In light of the quarrel, I knew I had to do my due diligence and find creative ways to pay for college. Yes, there are scholarships available to students, and getting a job while in college is an option we're all aware of. Sadly, those options often become scarce since everyone is trying to do the same thing. It makes things ten times more difficult to get that scholarship or that good paying job when they understand you are a student. A wise person once said, "dare to be different", and different is exactly what I had to be.
One way I decided to cut costs and save over $24,000 is by attempting to graduate early! The most difficult part about this is that it was necessary for me to be completely devoted to this goal without much help. I soon learned that most advisors will not tell you this is an actual, doable option for most majors. Going to school year round and creating a course work plan (and sticking to it!) are important steps in achieving this goal.
Another creative way to cut college costs is by killing two birds with one stone. Not literally of course, but by getting paid to get involved. Finding an on-campus job related to your major or hobbies will give you experience, involvement and a little bit of moola. Make sure that what you decide to get involved in is something you are passionate about or something you will actually enjoy. Also, if you're good at balancing things out, finding more than one job is an option. This is a tremendous way to help support yourself financially in college instead of nipping away at your parents' pockets.
There are lots and lots of scholarships out there, and applying to plenty is definitely important. At the same time, relying solely on winning scholarships will not completely get you out of the woods with the amount left to be paid. Apart from the many organizations that offer scholarships, legislative and senatorial scholarships are made available to students through local leaders in office. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid also offers grants and loans to students and parents. Many students take advantage of this by completing the application by the deadline. Grants are great! However, loans are not always a good thing to take out. The interest on a given loan often makes borrowers pay way more than what they bargained for. The best thing to do is leave loans as a last resort. This includes getting a credit card. In college, credit cards should be used strictly for emergencies. The money available will tempt broke college students to spend more than they're able to pay back. Not a good sign!
For my business minded, go-getting students out there, the possibilities are endless! Get creative and think about starting your own business. Use the resources made available by your college campus or community to help bring your ideas to life. You may be surprised by how far you get.
A few students are blessed with full ride scholarships. However, if you are not one of these gems, it is still possible to lower costs significantly. Make your parents proud by taking initiative and helping them decrease costs. These are just a few things that I wish someone had told me early on, but it's never too late. The sooner you act on saving money, the more you will probably save in the long run. If you don't have the drive to do what it takes, just start believing you are as awesome as your mom says you are! It will definitely pay off in the end.