As you read last week, the true cost of college can have quite the sticker shock. Between books, fees, daily needs and staying an extra semester to graduate in some cases, it can all add up. So what can you do to lower those costs or defer them until you get that big corner office? We have a few options for you to consider.
Scholarships: Obviously scholarships are a great way to reduce tuition expenses. Whether it’s an athletic or an academic scholarship, understand you have to maintain a good standing at the school – including a good GPA and staying out of trouble. Most schools offer academic scholarships, some are specific to your major, so speak with your admissions counselor to see if any could be a good fit for you and your family.
Loans: It might seem like there are a million types of loans out there for your college education. Instead of bogging you down with way too much information here, check out www.finaid.org/loans for a detailed breakdown of what might be your best bet. Just remember that whatever you take out, you’ll have to pay back with interest. Many people take out the maximum amount offered despite only needing a small percentage, which can cost them in the long run.
Savings: Prepaid tuition and 529 college savings plans are never too late to start. There are plenty of tax benefits for a 529 college savings plan and for every dollar you have saved now is a dollar less you’ll have to borrow (and pay back…with interest).
Military Aid: Many colleges and universities offer an ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program. Joining the ROTC or enlisting in any of the armed services can greatly reduce your college expenses (sometimes covering everything). They also have excellent job placement programs once you’ve graduated. Another option is if someone in your family has served, there are many programs for dependents of veterans to receive college assistance.
Grants: Like scholarships, grants come in many different sizes and are awarded for a variety of reasons. Look at your major, your parents’ careers, your religious organizations and volunteer activities for grant options. There are also government, federal, state and Pell grants available if you qualify.
Additional Resource: Understanding Financial Aid Options
There are also options like getting a part time job, whether it’s on or off campus, to take care of daily expenses that arise from wanting to enjoy the college experience. The first stop is always talking to your admissions office to see what options your specific school offers. You’ll never know unless you ask!
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