There’s no denying that college is a major financial investment. The questions are whether college is worth it and how you can make it more affordable. The decision depends largely on what your career goals are, what kind of college you want to go to, and whether you’ll have loans.
It’s possible that having that diploma will make a significant difference in how much you’ll earn during your career. On the other hand, it may mean getting in a lot of debt for a long time. Weighing these financial considerations can easily become overwhelming, but a college value calculator can quickly do some of the work for you in determining whether or not college is a worthwhile investment.
1) Work During High School
Working during high school may not seem so glamorous, but your college-self will be thanking you when you have savings in the bank for books, tuition, and other assorted college costs. If it isn’t too stressful adding a job to your schedule on top of homework and any other extracurriculars, consider getting a job, such as at a store in the mall or local restaurant. Even picking up a babysitting shift every now and then could help!
While earning some extra cash is certainly the main benefit of working during high school, there are other benefits, too. Balancing a job with your schoolwork will help you develop your time management skills, which will certainly come in handy with the greater workload during college. Also, having work experience on your resume is a bonus on your college application since it shows you’ve already gained some real-life experience.
2) Choose a More Affordable College
The cost of college tuition can range significantly from one school to another. One way you can save money on your education is to focus on the lower end of that range. For example, check out public institutions instead of costly private ones. Doing that alone could save you thousands of dollars. There are still plenty of top-ranked public universities to choose from, and many offer smaller classes or honors programs so you can get the feel of a private education.
Deciding to only apply to in-state colleges rather than ones elsewhere in the country or abroad will also make things more affordable. Unless there is a very specific program you’re trying to apply to, chances are you’ll be able to find an in-state school where you can pursue your interests for much cheaper. Of course, there are some schools abroad with tuition much lower than that of schools in the States.
3) Try Taking a Different Path Towards a Degree
Don’t let society pressure you into immediately jumping into your top-choice university or attending a four-year college right away. Depending on what your major is, you could go to a community college first. At a community college, you can earn credits for the basic requirements, before moving to a more expensive school where you’ll earn the remaining credits towards your Bachelors degree. You might be surprised at how much getting your start at a community college can save you!
Alternatively, there are many online education options available today. You may be able to find an online degree program that’s not only much cheaper than other colleges, but will help you save on other expenses like living costs.
4) Inquire About Scholarships and Grants
Thankfully, you don’t need to take on the financial burden of tuition all on your own. There are plenty of scholarships and grants out there designed to help students just like you cover the cost of college. There are scholarships for athletes, minorities, women, mothers, religious affiliations, community service, artists, military, legacy students, first-generation college students, and so much more!
The great thing about scholarships and grants compared to loans is that they never have to be repaid (there are some very specific exceptions). Once you receive the money, it’s yours to use for your education. Since these grants and scholarships are essentially like free money (often referred to as “gift aid”) you should apply for as many as possible to chip away at the out-of-pocket expenses.
5) Apply for Work-Study Programs
While you can get a number of different jobs while enrolled in college, you may want to look into a work-study program, which is a federal program specifically designed to help students with their education expenses. This program matches students with part-time jobs that offer more flexible hours so it’s easy to balance work and school.
To get a work-study job, you first have to apply for federal student aid through FAFSA since eligibility is determined based on financial need. Once you’ve been approved, you can visit your school’s financial aid or student employment office to see what jobs are available and apply for them directly. Many of these jobs are located on campus so it’s even easier to earn money while being enrolled in school.
6) Apply for Federal Loans
While pursuing scholarships and grants is always the best choice for financial aid since you don’t need to repay the money, getting a federal loan is another useful option. Federal loans are loans from the federal government, and they can be subsidized or unsubsidized. If you get a subsidized federal loan, then you won’t even have to pay the interest while you’re in college.
A big advantage to federal loans is that they have a fixed interest rate, and this rate is often lower than that of private loans. Not only that, but you’ll be able to wait to start making payments on your federal loan until after you graduate so you won’t be worried about keeping up with payments while you’re in school. The opposite is true for private loans, which are important to consider carefully before utilizing.
7) Keep Up With Interest Payments While in School
If you happen to get an unsubsidized student loan or a private student loan, then you’ll be dealing with interest charges while in school. It’s in your best “interest” to keep up with these interest payments as long as your budget allows, since the interest will accrue over time.
When you stay on top of your outstanding interest, it’ll save you money in the long run, maybe even hundreds of dollars. That’s much better than facing a way higher repayment amount than you were initially planning on!
If you’re wondering how to pay for college since it’s such a big financial commitment, consider following through one or more of these tips to help make it more affordable. That way, you can save on costs and your college’s value goes up, becoming a better investment for you. For more help when weighing the investment of college, you can also use an online college value calculator.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Time Out, CultureMap, Livability, and more.