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4 Tips If You Need To Pay For College Yourself

young woman looking frustratedAre you prepared for the school year 2014-2015 college costs? Or are you floundering around because you do not know where you will get the money to pay for college yourself?

It may seem like a lack of parental responsibility but the law does not stop some parents from refusing to pay for their kid’s higher education. Heartless? It goes both ways. If you think about it, you cannot really blame them. There are horror stories of parents having to withdraw all of their retirement money because they co-signed their children’s college loans. When it turned out that their kids were not responsible and even dropped out of school, they were left with the burden of paying the debts that they have not benefited from in any way.

Even if you both shoulder 50% of the college expenses (you and your parents), they have more to lose because retirement is nearer for them. They only have a much shorter time to prepare for it and it does not seem fair to make them shoulder your education. But then again, they are the ones with the income or the credit history to borrow money. You would think it should be them who should shoulder your studies.

Apparently, the majority of parents are still willing to help pay for college. According to a study done and published on DiscoverFinancial.com, 77% of parents still plan on helping their children shoulder their college expenses. But here’s the thing: times are tough and the 77% used to be 81% in 2013. While the majority want to help, the numbers are falling. More and more students are forced to fend off for themselves and put themselves through college.

4 options to finance your college education

If you are part of the group that was left to pay for college themselves, then do not feel so bad. That does not mean your parents do not love. It may just be that they are in more of a financial problem than you thought. After all, if they lose their retirement money to help you pay for your schooling, can you promise them that you will financially be responsible for them when they retire? Probably not.

Instead of feeling wounded, look at this as a challenge. You will be learning a lot by relying on your own resources to go through college compared to those who has mom and dad’s wallet to support them. And to make you feel a lot better, there are ways for you to pay for college on your own.

You also have to know that getting a college loan is not your only option. It is the most common financial path for students but it is not the only one out there. Here are 4 tips for you to get through college without the help of you parents.

Apply for scholarships and grants

There are so many scholarships and grants being offered by organizations, the government, schools and even private companies. You just have to search them out to find where you can qualify. These scholarship programs are usually merit-based so you should have very good grades. Even if you are an athlete, you still need to have good grades. This is one of the best ways to go through college at a very low cost. In some cases, the school might even waive the whole tuition fee and give you some allowance for your living expenses.

Of course, there are also scholarship programs that will depend on your family’s income and even where you came from. Since it will help you go to college at a low cost and you do not have to pay back anything, you can expect that the competition to qualify will be very fierce. So before you submit your application, make sure you fit the qualifications and you can meet the requirements of the program.

Go to a low cost college

Not everyone will go to community colleges enthusiastically but if the Ivy League schools are beyond your financial reach, then do not force it. You will be better off to go to a community college and be debt free than to go to an Ivy League university and be under hundreds of thousands of debt when you graduate. What some student do is to go to a community college for the first two years and save as much money as they can. Then, they shift institutions in their third year. This saves them a huge amount in the first two years and helps them lower any possibility of debt for the remaining years in college.

Work while in college

Your third option to pay for college on your own is to work while you are studying. The amount of time that you will spend  in a classroom is only between 15-20 hours a week. Even if you spend the same amount of time to do homeworks and study, you still have a lot of time in your hands. A person has 168 hours a week (including weekends). If you get 8 hours of sleep a day, 3 hours a day doing personal stuff and errands, and 2 hours a day relaxing or going out with friends, that will still leave you with around 37 hours of free time. What can you do with that? Add it to your entertainment time? That may be tempting but you should know that more time for entertainment means you will be spending more. So the best way to spend all those free time is to go to work. It will help you pay for college and give you some work experience that can help you in the long run.

Get a student loan

This is still part of your options but you are encouraged to put this option last. If none of the other three will work for you, then go ahead and get a student loan. The American Student Assistance published some statistics on ASA.org that revealed how 60% of college students borrow money to cover the costs of going to college. If this is the option that you will pursue, make sure that you will only borrow what you need. And work while you are in college so you can limit the amount that you have to borrow for the next term.

Know your college expenses

If you will pay for college on your own, you also need to understand the different costs that you will encounter in college. According to the CollegeBoard.org, your school expenses will be summed into five categories.

  • Tuition fees. These include the actual amount that you have to pay the school for credit hours. These are for your classes. Take note that the number of credit hours and the course you are taking will affect how much you will pay in tuition and fees.
  • Room and board. Some universities and college separate the board and lodging while others group them together. If it is separate, you need to consider the inclusions in the room and board. Will it include your meals?
  • Books and supplies. This will have to be considered as a separate expense since it varies every term and course. But according to the site, the average estimate for this is $1,200 – for a four year course.
  • Personal expenses. These are everything that you need to spend on to live comfortably. Your phone, laundry and meal expenses fall under this category. Include here your clothing and entertainment expenses too.
  • Transportation. This is an expense category for both car owners or those who use the public transportation. Factor in these costs before you go to college.

All of these should be considered if you are going to pay for college. Do not concentrate too much on the tuition fees. Your college expenses will be a lot more than that. At this point, creating a frugal budget will be really helpful to maximize your limited resources and lower your debt amount.

Parents and kids should join forces to go through college without debt

In the end, while parents are not obliged to pay for their kid’s college tuition, it is important for both the parents and the student to work together. That way, the latter will not have to be buried in debt and at the same time, the parents does not have to compromise their retirement money.

Here is a video about a young man named Brandon and how he is trying to go through college without any debt.

There are two important factors that allowed Brandon to attend college without having to rely on student loans.

  • His parents saved for college shortly after he and his siblings were born. The saving started really early so the parents did not have to shell out any money by the time Brandon had to go to college.
  • Brandon worked part time jobs and during school breaks to make more money. This young man worked hard so he can finance his own needs without relying on his parents. Not only that, he also knows that the experience he will get while working through college will help him when he goes out to the corporate world after graduation.

This is a formula that can really work well for any type of family.

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