The question of how to pay for college is a huge worry for most Americans. The cost of going just continues to increase. The College Board says that “the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.” And that’s for just one year. If you live in, say, Arizona and your child wants to go to school in Colorado, paying for college could easily be $99,680 – or even more if you need to buy your child a computer and printer, a microwave and refrigerator, plus the transportation costs.
If this is causing you to break out in a cold sweat…
We understand. Paying for just one child to go to college can be tough enough, and goodness help you if you have several college-bound children. Fortunately, there are some things you can do right now to lessen the burden. Here are eight helpful tips that could reduce your stress over the cost of going to college.
1. Apply for financial aid
If your child is a junior or senior in high school, you should be filling out the FAFSA or Free Application For Student Aid form to help with paying for college. Once you have submitted the application, you will get a Student Aid Report (SAR). It will list the FAFSA information you provided with space for any corrections you need to make. What happens next is that the colleges your child has chosen will use your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) and the information you provided on the FAFSA to calculate the number of work-study grants, federal grants, and loans for which you may be eligible.
Filling out the FAFSA will take some time and effort but it will be a lot easier if you watch the following video. It even lists all the documents you need to have at hand to get started.
2. Apply for national grants
Your child may receive some type of grant from his/her college of choice, but there are also national grants available to help you pay for college. These include Academic Competitive Grants, Pell Grants, and national SMART Grants. Take the Pell Grant as an example. It would be great if your child could qualify because, unlike student loans, the money doesn’t have to be repaid. This year, the maximum Pell Grant is $5775, and that could go a long way towards helping pay for your child’s education.
There may be other grants available, too. Your child’s guidance counselor can help you find them.
3. Look for a local scholarship
Scholarships vary by state, but there may be a number available where you live. For example, North Carolina offers a GSK Opportunity Scholarship that can be for as much as $20,000.
If you are a resident of Florida, there is the American Legion Department of Florida General Scholarship and the Ethics in Business Scholarship Program. In Connecticut, there is the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation College Scholarship, the Bruce Fishkin Scholarship Fund, the EPOC Environmental Scholarship Fund, and more.
The point here is to do some research to learn what scholarships are available that could make it a little easier to pay for college.
4. Apply to a lot of schools
This can be expensive if the schools charge an application fee, but if not, it’s best for her or him to apply to a lot of schools. If he or she is accepted by several schools, this increases the odds that at least one of them will offer a big financial package. In addition, it will allow you and your child to compare against one another when it comes time to select a college that is a good fit for their preferences and your financial situation.
5. Be prepared to negotiate
Believe it or not, colleges want students. In fact, some of the money they receive depends on the number of students they have enrolled. Even schools that provide only need-based aid can have incredibly different offers. If you’re fortunate enough to have more than one financial aid package on the table, you may be able to negotiate a better deal at your child’s top choice.
6. Encourage your child to sign up for a service commitment
These options aren’t for everyone, but if your child signs up with the Peace Corps, the National Health Services Corps, or ROTC, he/she would get money for college in return for their service. As an example of this, if your child were to sign up for the Peace Corps, he or she would earn $4,665 a year or $9,330 for two years of service.
7. Study abroad
Would your child be interested in going to school abroad, like to St. Andrews in Great Britain, where Prince William and his wife went to school? The tuition at St. Andrews is just $21,650 a year versus an average cost of $24,930 to go to an out-of-state university in America. College in Canada is even cheaper – McGill University charges just $17,400 a year.
8. Live at home
Most universities and community colleges require almost the same courses during the first two years. If your child could adjust to the idea of living at home and going to a community college for their first two years, this would eliminate the costs of room and board, and the tuition would be less. Then, after two years, he/she could transfer to a four-year school and get their degree from it.
We know that paying for college could be a real burden – both financially and emotionally. But if you can use some or all of the eight tips in this article, you should find it far easier to fund your child’s education and to lighten that burden. It is better than forcing them to borrow a lot of loans just to pay for college.