6 Creative Ways to Pay for College

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You know about the importance of a college education for your future career pursuits and job advancement. You’ve been accepted to a college, or maybe even multiple colleges. Congratulations! But you’ve also heard about the rising cost of education in this country, and you’re nervous. You’re not alone. Tuition is one thing, but once you start calculating student fees, the cost of books, and room/board, college can be an expensive endeavor.

When considering how to pay for your college education, it’s definitely important to do your homework about federal loans, and fill out that somewhat daunting Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But you shouldn’t stop there. Some students actually don’t qualify for much federal aid, but still need financial assistance. And some students may want to earn some extra cash regardless of how much Uncle Sam provides in financial aid dollars.

So, what else can you do? Here are a few ideas for funding your degree. It may take some research and writing more essays than you’d like, but it’ll be worth it when you’re awarded that diploma!

1)  Check out scholarships other than the ones at your chosen institution. Definitely research the scholarships doled out by your future college, but organizations in your community (the Lions Club, Rotary, churches, etc) may award some great scholarships as well. Local professional businesses such as doctor’s offices or engineering firms sometimes even give scholarships to students interested in pursuing similar fields. Start by checking with your school’s Career Center or a guidance counselor to see what scholarship information they have.

2)  Apply for scholarships from national organizations as well. The options here are endless. Organizations from the NAACP to the National Society of Professional Engineers hand out scholarships every year. Find as many as you can, and apply to anything that seems applicable to you!

3) Skip the prerequisites. Okay, so you can’t exactly skip them, but you can save dollars by fulfilling prerequisite classes like algebra or composition in other ways. Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credit are good places to start, or consider taking some of those classes through a local community college over your summer break. Or if you’re still in high school, see if your school offers dual enrollment with colleges in your community.

4) Buy used textbooks, and sell them on ebay or Amazon. Textbooks are surprisingly expensive. Be sure to price-check outside your school’s bookstore. Better yet? Borrow one from a friend who’s already taken the class.

5)  Get a part-time job. This may seem obvious, but working even a few hours a week while you’re in school does two things: a) earns you some extra cash, and b) makes you a more attractive job applicant when you graduate. Employers want to see work experience on your resume, even if it’s just making espresso at your school’s coffee shop. And if you can find a job related to your area of study? Even better. Just be sure you can balance this with your first job: being a student.

6) Don’t rule anything out. Check out this video about a girl who won a scholarship contest by making her prom dress out of duct tape! She earned $500, and gained some experience in her chosen field of fashion. Financial help can come from unexpected places, so think outside the box!

Want more ideas? Check out these resources for even more strategies for paying for school, and for avoiding needless expenses while you’re there.

Do you know anyone who’s earned money for school in an unexpected way? How are you planning to finance your education?

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