Ways to pay for college

students discussing ways to pay for college

There are a variety of ways to fund your college education. Do you know them?

Paying for college may seem like a big task, especially when you’re just getting started. Federal aid may cover a large portion of your college costs, but what about the leftover expenses? Here are some ways to help you pay for college that may reward you with life experiences, too.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

This one may seem obvious, but in previous years, more than $2.9 billion of free federal aid was left unclaimed by high school students, simply because they didn’t fill out a FAFSA form. The FAFSA is the first step in getting financial aid for college. You must complete it each year to be eligible for all federal student aid (grants and loans) for the school year ahead. Many colleges also require students to complete the FAFSA to apply for the school’s own scholarships or other aid programs on offer.

Apply for scholarships

You can search for scholarships online through Tuition Funding Sources or by checking with your school or local businesses and organizations. You’d be surprised at the spectrum of scholarships available — there is over $41 billion available through scholarships listed on Tuition Funding Sources.

Turn your AP score into college credit

You may know that great AP (Advanced Placement) scores can translate into credit for equivalent college courses, meaning you may be able to pay for fewer courses to complete your degree. Scoring well on AP tests can also increase your scholarship eligibility. More than 30% of colleges and universities consider AP experience when deciding scholarship recipients, so your AP classes and exams can be just as important as your SAT or ACT tests. The College Board online makes it easy to figure out universities’ AP credit policies.

Get a work-study job

If you checked the box on your FAFSA that says you’re interested in the federal work-study program, then your award letter will include the amount of money you are allowed to earn with one of these student-only jobs. Once you’re approved, you have to apply for and be awarded the work-study position — some jobs are on campus while some can be off campus. Just remember, you’ll be paid through a normal paycheck, so it’s up to you to apply the money to school costs.

Work in a dorm

Living in a dormitory is a great way to meet other students and adjust to college life. Resident assistants (RAs) are upper-class students who help keep things running smoothly and safely in the dorms. Most colleges offer some form of compensation — be it free or reduced housing costs, a stipend, free meal plans, or tuition discounts — to RAs. While you’ll have to be “on call” on evenings and weekends, you’ll gain valuable skills as you learn and grow with your fellow students living on campus. Check with potential colleges and universities for what they may offer.

Do you know how to pay for college? We break it down in five steps.

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