Hi Seamus. You are wise to be thinking about this ahead of time. College can be expensive but generally it is well worth it over a career. So. How do you pay for this?
First thing is investigate a community college for at least the first year, possibly two. Community colleges generally cost less and many students go there to get the basics out of the way (courses you will need for your first and second year of the college experience almost anywhere, but the courses don't cost as much).
At the same time you may want to investigate courses you can take online. Again they usually cost less. So when the basic courses are out of the way then you transfer to the small college you were talking about. But BIG WARNING HERE. You need to make sure....in advance.....that the small college you want will in fact accept the credits you are earning at the other places. Find someone or some office at the small college and talk to them before you do anything with a community college or online.
Keep applying for the scholarships. Pain in the butt I get it. But think of it as your job at the moment with one big payday when you are approved.
At college many have programs called Work-Study. These are part time jobs on campus that pay. Not a ton, but something. There will be information on this at the small colleges Financial Aid office.
Consider an Associates Degree. This is usually granted after just two years of study, and also can often be obtained at a community college.
Alternate college terms. This doubles the time it will take you to get a degree but it is a method. Essentially you work at two jobs for a term and save your income, and then you go to school the following term.
Live frugally starting immediately and certainly through college. If you are dead serious about college, and money is a notable challenge you are going to have to make some hard sacrifices of things you 'want' to be able to afford the degree. Here's a for-instance. If you have a car, sell it and buy a bike (or an electric bike) and also use public transportation. (Big benefit of public transportation---you can study while you are traveling!) You are the one who will decide what to do with every dollar that comes into your possession. If you really want that degree, and money is a great concern, you may have to live like a miser for a few years.
And as a total last resort you may need to borrow some. By all means check with your college's Financial Aid office. They will be able to assist you in this. WARNING. It is stupid easy to borrow money for college........there are all kinds of places that want to lend you money....but it can be a large debt you are saddled with for many, many years after school. Tread very carefully on borrowing money. And not a dime more than you absolutely need.
Seamus, getting through college is a challenge. People do it. Most people do it with help from others like I suggest. Thanks for reaching out. Good luck!!
PS> Free study tip. This worked like a charm for me in college. I had a job and very little time so I was looking for shortcuts. Got one for you. Of course I took notes in class, but immediately after class I would find a spot someplace and read my notes OUTLOUD to myself. I was both reading the notes and hearing them. The info really sunk in and I didn't need to look at the notes again. Got pretty good grades.