Don’t let the stress consume your life; you still have some options available to help finance your education and make ends meet. Here are five avenues you can explore if you find yourself struggling to pay your college tuition.
Did you submit the FAFSA? Or, did you not fill it out because you thought you wouldn’t qualify? There’s this myth going around that all financial aid is based on financial need, but that’s just not true. There are federal financial aid options, such as unsubsidized loans, which are not based on financial need.
As an added benefit, by filling out the FAFSA, you may have put yourself in the pool for other types of aid offered by your school and state.
It’s a good idea to contact your financial aid counselor. They can let you know if there are any other financial aid forms, like the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, that you should complete in order to get additional assistance. They may also offer you a tuition payment plan. If you’ve already completed your financial aid forms, and the payment plan is too much, you still have options.
Your school should have a process to submit a financial aid award letter appeal. What does this mean? It means you may be eligible for additional financial aid funds if you, and your family, are dealing with special or unusual circumstances. It’s best to discuss your situation with your counselor since they can offer you individualized assistance. Just be ready to fill out more paperwork or provide additional documentation.
Money talks are hard. If you’re hesitant to share because your situation is personal, just remember that your financial aid counselors are there to help, and they can only help if they know what is going on. You may feel alone, but you’re not. There are many students who are seeking financial help when it comes to paying for college.
Borrowing additional money may help you make up the gap amount. But, this option is only recommended after you have thoroughly evaluated your situation and determined the amount you need. Your financial aid counselor will also be able to help you through this process.
A Parent PLUS Loan (for parents of undergraduate students) or Grad PLUS Loan (for graduate students) is a federal loan option. To be eligible, borrowers cannot have adverse credit history. If you or your parents qualify, you may be able to borrower up to your cost of attendance.
Private student loans offer another financing option. Private student loans are credit-based, so you will need to have good credit, or a cosigner who is willing to apply with you. If you are approved, you will have relatively quick access to the funds. If you’re in a time crunch, this option may be right for you.
TIP: Make sure to understand all your lender options and compare their benefits and terms to find the right student loan for your situation. And remember, only borrow what you need.
It may be worth looking into scholarship options. This option may not be great if you’re pressed for time before your spring semester bill is due, but always keep this option fresh in your mind. Apply to scholarships year-round to increase your odds of receiving extra funds.
There are several different types of scholarships to look for: traditional merit-based, non-merit based, competitive scholarships, sweepstakes, etc. Using a scholarship matching tool like StudentScholarshipSearch.com can help you locate the options that are right for you.
The unfortunate truth is, sometimes these options may not be enough. But that doesn’t mean this is the end of your college dream, it just means you need to get creative.
If you are looking to attend a dream school, does your dream school also come with a bigger price tag than some of your other options—like a community college or state college? Look at some of your other options to see if there is a school that better fits your financial situation.
And if you can’t shake the desire to graduate from your dream school, consider asking an advisor at your first choice university about their policies regarding transfer credits. If you can take a few classes at a community college or state school, you may be able to count them towards your degree at your dream school, and earn those necessary credits at a fraction of the price.
Another option is to take a gap year to earn some money. Many feel pressure to attend college right after high school, but that path isn’t always practical. Your path may including working for a year or two to save money before going to college. When looking for an employer, don’t forget to ask if they offer tuition assistance programs. Why not be strategic while seeking employment?
College dreams do come with a price tag, and depending on your situation, it can feel overwhelming. But take some time and work through it—there are ways to achieve your goals!
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