When putting together a plan to pay for school, you want one that you can live with and that will allow you to enjoy your education. It is important to be flexible when looking at different funding sources. Your situation will change from year to year, so the way you finance your education may change as well. The first step in getting outside money to help for school is to complete the federal application for student aid. Once this form is completed you will be able to see how much aid you qualify for and where that aid will come from.
Money You Don't Have to Repay
Your first stop when looking for money for school should be in areas where you will not have to repay the funds. Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs through your college are all ways to help for school that you will not be required to repay. Federal grants, such as the Pell, are a great source of help when funding your college education. Because you don't need to repay the money, it is an effective way to lower your overall tuition bill. You are not required to repay scholarships either, although they generally require a little more research and work before you find out if you are awarded the funds. Work-study programs are arranged through your school. Your job may be anything from working in the cafeteria to manning the desk of your school's workout center. Work-study jobs are a great choice for college students because the school is aware that academics are your priority, and scheduling will be flexible.
Money You Will Repay
Loans are another way to finance school. While it can be intimidating to take on debt when you aren't actually working, student loan debts allow you to afford an education, which will put you on the track to a successful career. You can take out loans from the federal government, or you can apply for private student loans. Private education loans are a great choice for many reasons. They are not needs-based, so you can borrow what you need or fill in the gaps left after taking out federal loans. Private loans also take your credit score into account, so if you have been taking care of that, it will be hard to beat the interest rate.
Paying as You Go
While your parents may have attended school at a time when they could pay for classes with their earnings from working over the summer and on the weekends, that is not possible today. You can realistically pay for some of your expenses if you choose to work during the school year or over the summer. It is important to balance the importance of having time and energy to devote to your studies with your desire to earn money. During your college years, it makes sense to focus on college. If you have to attend school for one or more semesters longer than you planned because your grades suffered, you will not have saved any money. However, working during the summer, and part-time during the school year, is a great way to pay for books and other smaller expenses that add up over the course of your education.