If you hadn’t planned on going to college or didn’t think you would be accepted, you and your parents may not have been saving up. Or perhaps the tough financial times have made it impossible for your family to save for your school. Or you may be an adult learner who has decided you need to go back and complete your degree or start a degree program to expand your career opportunities. If this is your circumstance, you likely don’t have a college fund for yourself. Today we look at seven last-minute tips to help you find the money to pay for college.
#1 Fill out your FAFSA immediately
If you’re considering college, even if you’re still waiting for an application decision, complete your FAFSA online immediately. You may still qualify for some last minute assistance. This is step one before you take any more steps. Fill it out completely and ensure you do it accurately, and then move on to the other steps below while waiting to hear back on your FAFSA determination.
#2 Look for employer assistance
If you’re currently employed, find out if your employer offers any tuition assistance or reimbursement. If you’re a minor, ask your parents to do the same. Many employers offers scholarships to their employee’s children that may not have all been consumed. The same goes for your job. Even some fast food employers like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A offer small scholarships to employees. And if you work at a small business, ask the boss to chip in for school – it never hurts to ask.
#3 Think about it in baby steps
When you think about school, you may be overwhelmed thinking about the cost of all four years or even the cost of a full year. In fact, what you need to worry about right now is just your first semester. If you can address that now, you can take more time to look for financial aid or scholarships for future semesters and years. Find out what’s the lowest cost you can attend for if you buy used books or check them out of the library, don’t live on campus and in short, do it as thriftily as possible.
#4 Apply for late deadline scholarships
Most scholarships have earlier deadlines, but there are some that have later deadlines you can still apply to. Sometimes, not all funds are used up or no qualifying applicants applied. Talk to your high school guidance office, college financial aid office and search online to find any and all scholarships you may qualify for and apply for them ASAP. This should be a top priority. Leave no stone unturned and prepare to devote some time to this task – but it is free money and so is well worth your time.
#5 Beg the financial aid office
If you get a last minute acceptance notice from a college, contact the financial aid office and ask them for assistance. They know the resources that are still available and which funds may be left over from students that have turned in a last minute rejection that were offered scholarships or grants that may now be available. They may also be able to help you negotiate an installment payment plan for your first semester to allow you time to make better arrangements for subsequent periods.
#6 Consider a community college
Community colleges usually have much later deadlines. Even if you get an acceptance letter to a four year college, you may want to turn in an application to a much more affordable community college and opt for that route to knock out your core courses. Community college tuition is much cheaper and you will be more likely to be able to scrape up money for this option than for a costlier state school. Two years at a community college can prepare you just as well as two at a state school and as long as you transfer to an in-state school, your credits should transfer.
#7 Borrow wisely
If you’ve completed your FAFSA, you may still have time to borrow via federal student loans to pay for your first semester of school. It’s understandable that you may need to borrow more early on if you (or your parents) couldn’t save for school, but from there on, you are better served by borrowing as little as possible. Working while in school, working a second job or working summers and weekends is better than borrowing. Most that borrow for college are still repaying their debts into their 30s and beyond, so borrow wisely and as little as possible, or not at all – if you can.
If you do need to borrow for college, start out and stay on the right track by signing up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool from the moment you take on your first loan. Be sure to check out our blog for many more tips on paying for college.