Did you know there are multiple ways to pay for your college education? If you thought that student loans were your only option, think again! Instead of getting yourself in too deep with student loan debt before you finish up your college education, try to find some alternatives that will help you pay for your tuition and fees. There is no greater feeling than that of financial freedom once you graduate. Don’t follow in the footsteps of so many others and bog yourself down with debt that may seem impossible to pay off. Here are a few of the top alternatives to student loans that you may consider.
Scholarships are actually one of the best ways to pay for college expenses. There are so many different scholarships available, and oftentimes some of the scholarship money even goes unclaimed. This is a shame, considering the overwhelming amount of student loan debt in America. No one should ever leave this ‘free money’ on the table. Apply for scholarships early and often. While most scholarships are pretty choosy when it comes to their applicants, having multiple applications out for multiple scholarships definitely increases your chances of being awarded more scholarship money. Don’t try to put all of your eggs in one basket. Check into merit-based academic scholarships, as well as some of the need-based scholarships out there.
Grant money is just another type of ‘free money’ than you will want to take advantage of. Many people qualify for Pell grants and other federally funded grants. Some grants are easy to obtain, as you simply have to fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and they automatically award some of the common grants based on your needs. Any non-government funded grants will need to be applied for separately. Keep your eyes open for some of the private grants that you may not be aware of.
Another great way to pay for college without having to get yourself into debt is through work-study programs. These programs are offered on most college campuses, and they are usually given out on a need basis. Sometimes you can even find jobs that relate to your degree, giving you a little something extra to add to your resume after graduation. That means this can be a win-win situation all the way around, benefiting you in more ways than one. Check into the work-study programs on your campus and see if you qualify.
Opt for Community College
Many students choose to go to a community college when they first start out, rather than jumping straight into a four-year university. This is because community college is typically a lot less expensive, with an entire semester costing about the same as one class at a private university. If you start out at a local community college, you can probably get some of your pre-requisite classes out of the way without having to get yourself into some serious debt. Many students even find that grants more than pay for their years at the community college level. This can drastically cut down the amount of student loans you need to take out over the life of your college career. Keep this in mind before you run off to the biggest party college in your state.
Work Your Way Through College
Finally, you may opt to have a job through college. While there are some academic paths that may be far too demanding for you to be able to work a job, many students do find themselves with some free time they can use to work. If you have the time, and it won’t affect your studies, then you will definitely want to consider getting a job. This is especially true during the summer months when you don’t have as much going on with school. The more you can earn and pay towards your college education, the less student loans you will have to take out. That is always a good thing, even if working through college really seems like a drag! You will thank yourself down the road when others around you are in over their heads with student debt, and you are on your way to financial freedom.
As you can see, there are quite a few different ways you can pay for college. Before you find yourself applying for both federal and private student loans, make sure you have exhausted all of these other options. You definitely don’t want to find yourself in a position of insurmountable debt right after you graduate. After all, this is often when grads want to take steps towards buying a new home, new car, or even starting a family. Take our advice and make those first steps debt free.