On to today’s topic: Paying for College. Getting the funds for college and living expenses is one of the biggest challenges you will face, perhaps even tougher than getting into college. If you slacked your way through high school and ended up with poor grades, your chances of a scholarship are not as high. But hopefully you listened to your teachers and parents and did well in school.
In Florida we have what is called a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. Based on your grades, SAT/ACT scores, and community service, every graduating senior attending college can receive a 75% tuition scholarship or a 100% + books scholarship. Florida is awesome when it comes to providing every student the means to attend college. I am not sure how other states work, but I would imagine each state has similar scholarship programs.
Scholarships are what every student needs. Tuition can be very expensive depending on where you go to school and how many classes you take. Out of state schools will cost a student more money. Private schools will also be more expensive. Scholarships give students the ability to attend colleges on someone else’s dime. Pretty sweet deal huh?
Not all scholarships are based on financial situation like most people think. Generally, students who are in need of financial aid will be given a high priority when it comes to winning a scholarship; however, this is not always the case. Don’t be shy when asking about scholarships. Consult your school counselors, parents, teachers, and friends. You’d be surprised that the company your parents work for probably offer scholarships. Even if it is only for $1000, that is still free money you can’t pass up.
Scholarships are not limited to incoming freshman either. Current sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible for scholarships. Often upper level students are awarded scholarships to further their study in their specific major, such as Education majors. Visit your school’s financial aid office for more information.
One of the best, if not the best, resources for scholarship information is FastWeb. Every student needs to visit them. Yes, even you seniors. There are thousands of scholarships that go un-awarded every year. So get off this web page (when you’re done reading of course) and go get one.
Another method of getting money for college is from Uncle Sam himself. No, not your mom’s half brother that you only see on Memorial Day barbeques. I’m talking about the United States Government. The federal government gives out free money to college students. It’s called FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA grants are determined by how much money your parents make. You have to fill out a form in your school’s financial aid department or online via their website, www.fafsa.ed.gov. Every student needs to do this. Even if your parents make $500,000 a year, there is still a chance you are eligible for a free grant. A grant is money you do not have to pay back. Ever.
Let’s say your parents give you $2000 a year for college. You use this for tuition, books, rent, and food (and with all these expenses plus more, $2000 does not go that far). Let’s say you have filled out your FAFSA forms and are given $1000. This is awesome! But wait, it’s been two years and now your little sister is going to college and your parents can’t afford to give you $2,000 each. So they split it up and you each get $1000. What a bummer!! Or is it? FAFSA adjusts your grant according to not only what your parents make, but how many siblings you have in college. The more brothers and sisters you have going to college, the more money you get.
The most dreaded, but probably most popular, method of paying for college are student loans. Almost all students have them, so don’t feel bad if you are forced to get one. If you’ve taken a finance or economic class you’ve probably heard the terms “good debt” and “bad debt”. Victoria’s Secret credit card debt is “bad debt”, while student loans are “good debt”. Student loans offer the lowest interest rates of any type of loans. Often they give you a grace period after graduation where not a single cent is due. Student loans can be paid off over a long period of time with fixed interest rates.
Subsidized student loans are loans you get through your school’s financial aid department that the government pays the interest for. Not a bad option either if you are in need of tuition money. Visit your bank or financial aid office for more information on student loans. All banks offer them, so go ask today.
Finally, the last method of paying for college I’m going to discuss is through good old hard labor. Getting a job can help pay the bills. Waitressing, bartending, retail, and tutoring are all prime examples of college jobs. If you aren’t into working at a restaurant or mall, visit your student career resource center. Jobs on campus are given out to students who are financially needy. The best thing about working on campus is they will fit your work schedule around your classes and tests. You will never have to miss class or work. One of the disadvantages of working on campus is the pay is generally low. You will make a lot more money working at Chili’s than you will your school’s bookstore.