Even if money’s a problem, don’t give up on college—you can find a way to make it work. There are many scholarship and financial aid programs and other ways to find the money and help you pay for college.
Scholarships are a great way to pay for college because you don’t have to pay them back! Diligent students have a good chance of gaining a scholarship. To increase your chances of getting the money you need by the time you graduate high school, start looking for scholarships during your junior year.
Most scholarship programs require applications. The process for applying can be as simple as sending an application form, or as complicated as writing a number of essays and providing detailed transcripts. Searching online is a good way to find scholarships.
There are a number of merit-based scholarships available. Some pay your entire tuition; most pay a portion. If you’re a hard-worker with good grades and decent test scores, you can apply for merit-based scholarships, specific university scholarships and other nonprofit scholarships intended to attract talented students.
Need-based scholarship programs are for students in need of money for college. These are often run by colleges and are based on a combination of your income and your family’s income. Some are specific to a major or location. Research the need-based scholarship programs at the colleges you wish to attend to determine if you’re eligible.
• Other types
Along with traditional scholarships, you will also find state-run programs, business-run scholarships and money for students of specific religions or ethnicities. There are also special scholarships for your sports and artistic talents. Ask your school counselor for details, or visit nextSTEPmag.com/Scholarships.
Financial aid programs
Financial aid programs are another good way to pay for college. Usually combining grants and loans, they are often run on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply early.
• Government financial aid
To determine your eligibility for financial aid, such as grants and low-interest government loans, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Familiarize yourself with this application before applying for financial aid.
• Other programs
Some colleges run their own aid programs aside from scholarships. These are specific to each school, so research the financial aid programs at the schools to which you intend to apply.
You can always work to pay for school, but be careful not to overwork. As a college student, you will already have a large amount of work on your plate.
• Accelerated programs
Some schools run accelerated degree programs that allow you to complete classes in a less-than-usual amount of time. These programs may help you graduate sooner, but you might find the pace overwhelming
Getting a college education can be expensive, but it is worth every dollar. Use these techniques to get started on your quest to pay for college. If you need more help, talk to your school counselor or the admissions office at a college nearby.
Ross Blankenship is an admissions analyst and admissions counselor. He is also an author and co-founder of TopTestPrep.com, test prep and admissions.