College Financial Aid Strategies

If you’re on your way to college, one of your biggest concerns is probably “how am I going to pay for all of this?” Debt is a huge problem for college students these days, especially those who are attending private institutions, where person debt can easily reach over $100,000.

College financial aid is a tricky business, since over the course of the usual four years of someone’s college career a lot of money is going out but very little is coming back in. College financial aid offices can sometimes help students along, but if you’re already in college when you start thinking about how you’re going to pay for it you’re already behind.

One of the best college financial aid strategies, especially if attending a private college, is to get as many scholarships as possible. Scholarships are a lot more attractive than loans since scholarships represent free money; it never, ever has to be paid back. Most colleges offer both need-based and merit-based financial aid. Need-based aid is usually based on how much money your parents make and how many siblings you have, since your parents are expected to help pay for your education and the education of your siblings. Even if your parents aren’t helping to pay for your education at all, the system still stipulates that they do. Merit-based financial aid is based on your grades and your activities from high school. Private colleges are much more likely to give out large merit-based scholarships than public colleges since the private schools usually have more donors who set up scholarships in their names or contribute to a certain scholarship fund. These institutional scholarships can cover up to half of your tuition, or more, every year.

Also, don’t be afraid to look for college financial aid in the form of scholarships in odd places either. Look around your hometown for different community organizations who offer scholarships like the Knights of Columbus or the Humane Society. Though these sorts of community organizations may not be able to contribute thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarships, every little bit helps, especially when it doesn’t have to be repaid.

Finally, if scholarships and your savings aren’t enough to cover your college expenses you’ll probably have to apply for a student loan. First, finish the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to see which federal loans you qualify for. Someone at your college financial aid office can then advise you what loans would suit you best and even when to start paying them off. Though paying for college can be scary, it’s still one of the most worthwhile investments you can make.

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