The Best Ways to Pay for College

Finding ways to pay for college can be daunting, but there is good news. There are plenty of ways you can finance your education so long as you’re willing to find the best methods for your unique needs. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to paying for school, consider the following options for the best ways to pay for college. 

1. See if You Qualify for Student Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a helpful tool for prospective students to evaluate their financial situation. The FAFSA is a necessary part of qualifying for student aid and could allow you to receive grants, student loans, work-study opportunities, and other need-based aid. It’s important to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible since much of the aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

2. Find Work-Study Arrangements

Having a college job is a great way to earn money while also acquiring skills and experience. Those who have financial needs may qualify for a job through the federal work-study program. Again, the FAFSA is necessary to determine what you may qualify for. If you do qualify, you’ll be responsible to find an appropriate work-study job on the campus of your school. While you may qualify for a certain level of work-study-based aid, you’ll be responsible for working the necessary hours to achieve that level of pay.

3. See if You Qualify for Scholarships

There are many valuable scholarships available to students, and you don’t have to wait until your last year of high school to begin seeking out scholarship opportunities. The nice thing about scholarships as compared to other types of aid is that they don’t need to be paid back. Once you’re awarded the funds, they’re yours (so long as you use them according to the stipulations outlined). 

4. Use Your Savings

Some students (and their parents) begin saving for college long before their senior year of high school. Most students find they have to tap into their savings to pay for all of the expenses of college, including books, room and board, and tuition. Student income and savings account for roughly 8% of the typical education funding sources for one academic year. One way to start saving early is through a 539 plan, which is a tax-advantaged, state-sponsored college investment account. 

5. See if You Qualify for Grants

Grants are one of the most overlooked ways to fund a college education. Submitting the FAFSA allows you to see whether or not you may qualify for these grants, including federal Pell Grants. There are several federal funds available, and these do not need to be repaid. Some states also offer grants, so visit the Education Department website to see which agencies in your state may offer college grants.

Most students will use some combination of the options above to pay for their college education. Filling out the FAFSA is a great first step in determining some of the options that may be available to you. If you’re still a few years away from college, consider opening a savings or 529 account to help pay for college when it’s time. 

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