Paying For College Without Going Broke

The title of this post may seem impossible to some people and to others it may seem unimportant.

For those of you you are are worried about paying for college, there is hope! Not everyone has their parents to back them up and that’s okay. Going to college doesn’t have to suck you dry of every cent you have.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is that preparing early is one of the best things you can do.

Saving money has a lot to do with the choices you make early, as well as considerations you will need to put into account during the decision making process. This is your life, and the choices you make are up to you.

College is very expensive, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort you can cut back the cost tremendously.

With that being said, here are some tips, thoughts and ideas to keep in mind to help you successfully pay for college without going broke.

While you are still in High School…

Keep up your grades.

Caring about your grades in high school is a great way to prepare for college in an academic sense but also in a budgeting and money saving sense. Getting good grades means a higher GPA and the chance to get tons of academic scholarships.

It’s important to show your college of choice that grades matter to you. I was offered a scholar award from my school for all four years just because I kept a high GPA and cared about my grades in high school.

Get involved with extracurricular activities.

This is another great way to open yourself up to different scholarships. If you are passionate about a particular sport, you could even land yourself a full ride! Get involved with your high school. There’s tons of opportunities to obtain ‘free’ money for college if you apply yourself.

Start looking for scholarships right away.

Many students (like myself) will wait until the last minute to look for scholarships. It’s good to look into scholarships early since so many of them will require essays and more time consuming information. Don’t wait until you are already in college to begin looking. Take advantage of first year scholarships.

Get a part time job and start saving.

Responsibilities are usually much smaller in high school. Get a part time job as soon as you can. Use your free time to make some money and put some of it away for college. This is one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for work in the future and give yourself some of the money you will need to pay for college.

Quick tip: If you have a high school graduation party and you end up with a pretty big lump sum of cash from your friends and family, put it away. I know at the time it’s hard, but it’s so worth it if you have to pay for college. Spend some of it on something you really want, but save the rest for school. You’ll be happy you did.

Things to consider…

Start at a community college.

I know tons of people who went to community college first. They spent two years taking general ed classes while working to save money so they could attend the school of their dreams later. I highly recommend considering this option.

This is a great choice if…

  • you are unsure of what you want to study.
  • you need time to save more money.
  • you would like to take some gen eds before you transfer to a university.

Choose a school close to home.

Going to school out of state is much more expensive than staying in state. Save moving out of state for after graduation. Don’t be in such a rush to get out of home. Times have changed. Don’t feel like it’s necessary to move far away from Mom and Dad just because all your friends might be going that route.

Going to school close to home can also open up the possibility of living at home and commuting. Commuting is relatively cheap, and you won’t have to pay for room, board, groceries, rent, etc. If your parents are happy with you staying home, take advantage of it. If money is a big issue, this is a great option to consider.

I am currently a senior and have commuted all four years. Sure, it has it’s downfalls, but the amount of money I have saved (mine and my parents) is huge.

Always work a part-time job.

Keep the money coming in. You don’t have to get a real time consuming job, but it’s good to work a little bit while you are in school. Anything will help pay for college, even the smaller aspects of living on your own and being a college student.

The number one piece of advice I can offer is…

Fill Out FAFSA Immediately.

Do not wait until the last minute. FAFSA will open you up to government loans and grants as well scholarships, and other helpful money sources. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it financially through college without the help of FAFSA.

Again, college is expensive no matter how you look at it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are many ways of cutting back the costs and preparing yourself early on in the college process. College does not have destroy you financially.

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Molly Stallman

Molly Stallman

Molly Stallman is a senior at DePaul University working toward an English degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing. She also has a minor in Digital Cinema. Molly especially enjoys spending time with loved ones, listening to music, watching movies/television and playing with her dogs. She also has a passion for antiques, crafts, animals, photography and the great outdoors.