I Need Help Paying for College!

The price tag on a good education can be a daunting one. The continual rise in the cost for a college education has many students wondering just how they are going to pay for college.

Spring of my freshman year, I was looking at a $28,000 dollar private loan on top of a 5,000 federal loan- for one year. I had taken out loans with the naïve thought that “hey, if I don’t have to pay it now, why worry about it!”

Wrong. When it finally hit me and I realized that at the rate I was going I’d graduate with well over $100,000 in student debt, and that wasn’t even including the interest I would soon start accruing, I knew it was time to finally admit that I needed help paying for college.

Turns out, all you have to do is ask.

Colleges have tons of money that sits in trusts, or grants or departmental funds that most students aren’t even aware exist. I know I sure wasn’t, but when I reached my financial limits I reached out to my major’s department head and asked what I should do. He responded with a scholarship link to the department and I was awarded a rather hefty scholarship for the next year.

You see, the thing with departmental money is that because it isn’t tapped into frequently often times you can be awarded a larger lump sum. So if you’re also thinking to yourself, “I need help paying for college,” get emailing!

Financial Aid Office

If you have worries about finances, first and foremost contact your financial aid office. Explain to them your worries and see if there are any institutional scholarships or grants that they can offer you.

Next, email the department head of your major, or intended major if you are undecided. Again explain your situation and see if there is any sort of a fund.

Scholarships

Another great option is outside scholarships. While your school may have a good amount of money to offer you, chances are it wont cover the costs in total. But have no fear because there is literally a scholarship for everything.

  • Left handed? There’s a scholarship for that.
  • Taller than average? There’s a scholarship for that.
  • Know how to make the perfect duck call? There’s a scholarship for that.

Of course, there are much more ‘normal’ scholarships out there too, such as for excellence in academics, for a passion for volunteering, for co-curricular involvement. Even more, some are just for living in the state you do!

But with thousands upon thousands of scholarships how are you supposed to find them all?

There are many sites out there that will claim to help you, but many are just scams. Avoid services that require a fee, as these tend to be a little less legitimate. You can find plenty of reputable services for free, so use those! After all, you are trying to save money because you need help paying for college.

Fastweb.com is a great site and probably one of the most used. The site allows you to pick and choose qualifications you have and narrows down the scholarships to match you. Sallie Mae’s scholarship search is also a free service with many scholarship listings.

Private Student Loans

Another option that many students go with who need help paying for college is taking out private loans to cover costs. While loans can be scary and a hard process, once you have things figured out loans can save you a lot of stress while you’re in school.

As I mentioned before, loans give you the freedom to think “if I don’t have to pay it now, why worry!” And although for a $28,000 loan which will accrue great interest that isn’t a smart mentality, for a few thousand dollars it can give you the freedom to enjoy your college years.

Instead of having to make huge monthly payments that will put even more financial stress on your day to day life, if you take out a loan you can simply focus on living expenses, food, etc. while you’re still young and figuring out fiscal responsibility.

Sadly though, those loans won’t disappear and you will be required to pay them back after you graduate, including interest. So it is advisable if you can to make monthly payments on your tuition opposed to taking out a loan do so.

But believe me, I know better than many that sometimes a monthly payment plan is out of the question. For those of you in that predicament, I suggest really checking all of your options. You want to find a loan with a fixed interest rate otherwise you could end up paying more in interest that your loan is really worth.

When looking, consider the repayment plan of the loans and check into the grace period you will receive before you have to pay back your loan. Another great option is to start paying interest on your loans while you are still in school. This helps to lower your total loan when you graduate.

As cheesy as it is to say, an education is an investment and a pretty important one at that. Don’t let worries of how to pay scare you away from a college education.

So again, if you’re stuck thinking, “I need help paying for college,” just remember to ask for help when you need it, and do your research. Let how you plan to decorate your dorm be your biggest worry, not your finances.

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Chelsea Halstead

Chelsea Halstead

University of Portland junior, Chelsea Halstead, is a Communications and French double major. Chelsea hails from Alaska originally, but calls Portland, OR home now. When Chelsea isn't at school or whipping up a mean latte as a Barista, she enjoys spending time outdoors and attempting to make Pinterest crafts!
Chelsea Halstead

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