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5 Ways to Finance Your College Education
by Guest Blogger, Ginger Abbot

Congratulations, you’re going to college! Now, you might be wondering how to finance your education. When you consider student loan options, you might be under the impression that private loans are your only choice. However, there are many ways to finance your college education.

Before you get your pen and sign on the dotted line, read our article to learn about all your choices in student payment options. Here’s how to afford college without breaking the bank.

Be Smart Selecting Your School

The first step in learning how to finance your education is making a wise decision about which university you select. Data shows public colleges offer reduced rates for education compared to private or out-of-state institutions. The cost of education differs depending on the state, and so does the process of obtaining residency. Some states require rigorous residency requirements, but others need just a year of occupancy for you to qualify for state education savings.

Another option to consider is starting your degree at a community college or technical school. After completing your general education credits for a significantly reduced price, you can transfer to a standard college to complete your major courses. Community college and technical school options are considerably cheaper than attending a traditional college for four years. You’ll also save money by living at home and having flexibility in your schedule to work.

Fill Out the FAFSA

The best advice calls for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually. You might not anticipate qualifying for government aid. However, you’ll need to submit the document to put yourself in the running for any assistance at your college, student loans, grants, or work-study opportunities.

Most colleges award money on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’ll want to complete your FAFSA as early in the new year as possible. The paperwork takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Investigate Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants can be a fantastic way to finance your college education – and there are thousands for which you can apply. Some require specific attributes, like cultural or ethnic backgrounds, while others are purely academic or performance-based. Do your research to see which might fit you best, and then apply. While there are few full-ride scholarships available, there are various thousand-dollar scholarships. Consider applying to many relevant scholarships, as the price adds up if awarded.

Additionally, there are national-level education grants. You apply for these grants through your FAFSA. If the government determines you’re eligible for aid, you’ll receive a Pell Grant. With a Pell Grant, the government can award up to $6,095 for 12 semesters. Depending on where you live, there should be state-level grants to which you can also apply. You won’t ever need to pay the money back when you receive a grant.

Apply for Work-Study

You’ll want to check to see if you qualify for a work-study position, as it provides valuable work experience and helpful employer connections. It also provides a regular paycheck which you can use for textbooks, gas, and other living costs. The federal government funds the work-study program, providing jobs for college students demonstrating financial need.

Apply for work-study by submitting your FAFSA. Next, check your financial aid letter to see if work-study is listed. Work-study jobs can be on- and off-campus, and you’ll be paid based on your level of financial need. Know that the most you can work is 20 hours a week, as the program is meant to be part-time.

Take Out Loans

As a last option, you should consider loans to finance your education. Start first with federal loans because they provide benefits that private ones don’t. Some government loans offer forgiveness programs if they’re occupation-related – for example, a teacher working in a low-income area, a nurse or medical professional, or a member of the armed forces.

Private student loans also work for financing your education, but you’ll want to do your research. Search for an option with low interest rates and reasonable repayment options.

If you can find a personal loan with forbearance options, consider selecting that one. Keep in mind that with any loan, you’ll need to pay back the money you borrowed.

The Best Choice in Student Payment Options

When it comes to financing your education, know that you have many options. First, select a practically priced institution, fill out your FAFSA, and get to work finding scholarships and grants.

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