How to Pay for College if You’re not Rich

Funding college is probably the number one question of many new students. It is an especially difficult and stressful road when neither you nor your parents are rich. But, there are ways in which college does not have to be just a dream.

-Stay local. While it may not be the most exciting choice, by staying in-state any potential student can save thousands of dollars in tuition and housing (if they elect to stay at home). Use this time both work and save money as well as complete any general education requirements then make the move to another school.

Another way to curb tuition costs of an out of state school is to move there and live for at least a year. If you are okay with postponing school for this time you can apply for residency (double check the time requirements by state) and also qualify for the in-state tuition price. The downside is living costs, but working a couple of jobs will allow you to save money too.

-Financial Aid. Apply with FAFSA (Free Applications for Federal Student Aid) which awards money based on your financial situation. Ask about financial aid packages through your intended university. They might give awards based on your high school record or solely on your financial status. You might also be assigned a work-study program where you work in a university position for a reduced tuition fee.

-Scholarships. This is the most obvious approach and there are hundreds of thousands of these awards just waiting for prospective students to apply. If you are still in high school, keeping a high GPA or doing additional credits can earn you an academic scholarship. If you are active in clubs (SADD, Key Club) or in community service programs you could win a merit scholarship.

Athletic scholarships are given to those that excel in different sports- from basketball to golf. Fastweb is a website that lists different scholarships based on a given profile and even sends updates on new ones or approaching deadlines. Also, check with local organizations like Knights of Columbus for sponsorship. If you work at a major or even minor business they might be willing to pay for partial tuition.

-Grants. These are ‘awards’ given by the government that do not have to be paid back. Sounds good, but they are typically given for research or specific fields and come with strict guidelines before you can apply/win one.

– Secondary Work. In addition to a part-time job (which you should have if you aren’t rich) try offering different services to your fellow students. This could be tutoring in a subject you excel at or editing papers. Be sure not to get overwhelmed by demand!

-Join the military. As the ad says, they will pay up to $50,000 for school. If you are willing to commit to a long term service then this might be the best option.

-Interesting Alternatives. There are a few less utilized ideas funding college. One is medical studies which might offer a hundred to a couple thousand dollars per study. If you are willing to take the risks, look up pharmaceutical trials in your area and see if you qualify. Donating blood, sperm/eggs, or plasma are other ways of earning a quick $50 to help pay for books or other fees.

If you own a decent car, check on-line for advertisers willing to pay for the space on your vehicle. Some pay up to $3500 just to put a sticker on your door. If you are good, they might give you a car to drive and pay you at the same time. Do some spring cleaning and pile up what you don’t want anymore. If you have some time either host a garage sale or sell it on EBay.

Not having money should not deter you from attending your top choice college. If you are willing to work hard and do some research you could have all four years paid in full.