What Every Student Should Know About Paying for College

“College?? I’m not going. It’s too expensive and my parents don’t have the money to pay for it.”

Sound familiar? Far too often, high school kids are scared at the thought of college because of the hefty price tag that comes along with. Don’t let the myths and horror stories scare you out of your education!

Through grants, loans, awards and scholarships, you could be walking onto a college campus for FREE.

Yes, FREE!

You don’t have to be an athlete with a nice jump shot to get a scholarship. Organizations like the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) offer scholarships for minority students.

First things first, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA, which will break down how much you and your parents can contribute towards your tuition. FAFSA uses this information to award grants, loans and awards that you’re eligible for.

Just realize it now, your new BFF isn’t the cool girl or guy you’re stuck rooming with — it’s the Financial Aid office. Almost all school offer good financial aid options, you just have to find them.

For those who don’t know the difference among these options, here’s a breakdown:

  • Grant: a type of aid that you don’t have to pay back. Think of it as a gift! You must meet the requirements for eligibility.
  • Scholarship: Another type of aid that you don’t have to pay back. They’re awarded based upon factors like academic achievement, talent, leadership, field of study and financial need.
  • Loans: a type of aid that’s awarded after all scholarships and grants has been awarded. You must pay back loans once you graduate. Be mindful of the loans you take, like whether they’re subsidized (a need basis) or unsubsidized (a non-need basis) and when you have to start paying them back.

Get as many grants and scholarships as you can, but with so many students fighting for aid as well, it’s COMPLETELY realistic to need loans. Just try to keep them to a minimum.

You can even get a job through a university aka work study, as a means of financial aid!

As far as scholarships, the more you apply for, the better chance you have at getting more money.

Never be afraid to ask questions, the financial aid office is there to help you, so don’t neglect them. The more information you seek, the more you will know. You WILL have the money to pay for college, so no worries!

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Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She loves to help others and hopes to be a television anchor. On campus, Shannon serves as the Vice President of her dance team, as well as a mentor to incoming freshmen. When she's not in school or working, Shannon enjoys traveling, eating, watching movies with friends and trying new things.