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What's the best way to afford college without getting in too much debt?


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Richard’s Answer

It sounds like you are headed in the right direction if you are thinking about how to afford college. If you can work and still do well in your classes, you should work part-time. You should also seek out all the scholarships and grants your college offers. Although it is time consuming to seek out scholarships, it is well-worth it considering the return on investment. I'd encourage seeking out college-specific scholarships, as they tend to give more than general scholarships.


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Dan’s Answer

Hi Harry,

Good question. College costs keep on rising and being aware of this fact is a great head-start.

Many colleges offer competitive financial aid packages, and that is a very important factor in selecting which college to attend (if less education debt is an important criteria).

There are also several scholarships prospective students can apply for--they really run the gamut. One helpful source is the federal government:
https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/scholarships

Good luck,

Dan


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Tyler’s Answer

When I was applying for school I went through FAFSA for financial aid. With FAFSA it will let you know what federal student loans you can get but it will also check your qualifications for financial aid. When applying for FAFSA they automatically apply for the Pell Grant and depending what state there are some state grants you can get. This application takes into account household income, household dependents and other factors such as this.

There isn't always a guarantee you will receive a grant but it will help. When I did have to get a loan my last year I still had to apply through FAFSA to get the loan. My school told me I had to do that so when and if you choose to apply for loans the school's financial aid office should also be able to help.

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Tyler’s Answer

When I was applying for school I went through FAFSA for financial aid. With FAFSA it will let you know what federal student loans you can get but it will also check your qualifications for financial aid. When applying for FAFSA they automatically apply for the Pell Grant and depending what state there are some state grants you can get. This application takes into account household income, household dependents and other factors such as this.

There isn't always a guarantee you will receive a grant but it will help. When I did have to get a loan my last year I still had to apply through FAFSA to get the loan. My school told me I had to do that so when and if you choose to apply for loans the school's financial aid office should also be able to help.

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Kamile’s Answer

Great question - definitely research for and apply to all of the scholarships you can possibly apply for! Leverage federal financial aid (FAFSA) before private loans because the interest rates are lower. I would highly recommend filling out your FAFSA form as soon as you can rather than waiting. It's time consuming and you will need a lot of information from your family, so be prepared to spend a couple of hours! Further, if you are comfortable working while in college, I would recommend finding a job. I agree that on-campus work would be best because they are typically easier to work with in terms of flexibility around big exams, projects, etc. Budgeting becomes key because if you can pay off some of those expenses right away, you will be better off in the long run. Good luck!

Kamile recommends the following next steps:

Visit this site for help with scholarships (they were on Shark Tank!) https://myscholly.com/

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Bronson’s Answer

Hey Harry,

That is a good question that can be answered in a million different ways.

I was a first-generation college student with parents that were not able to help pay for my college, thus, the entire financial responsibility of college was on my shoulders. It is this way for many students.

Here is a list of what I did in order to be able to graduate undergrad with $0 in debt and very little in debt after obtaining my masters degree.

1) During High School do your best to get the best possible grades and test scores (ACT, SAT). This will help in obtaining college scholarships.
2) Whether you are an entering freshman or senior in college, apply for as many scholarships as possible. Everybody deserves a scholarship and there is a lot of money out there waiting to be given to you. Search your school scholarship website, google scholarships, use scholarship apps, etc. Look everywhere and don't be afraid to write an essay.
3) During the summer find a high paying job. It is very likely going to require hard work, but DO NOT settle for a minimum wage job because it is easy. My choice each summer was to do sales door-to-door. This was exponentially harder and much less fun that other jobs, but it paid much better that a minimum wage job.
4) Be smart with the money you earn.

Best of luck!

P.S. if you want to know the company I sold door-to-door for reach out. I can give you more information and lead you to a few job opportunities that pay higher than minimum wage.

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Danyel’s Answer

There are lots of good suggestions listed about to pay for college. I would highly encourage applying for scholarships. When looking for scholarships think about your talents in addition to your academic scholarships. For instance, if you play or sport or instrument the school may offer scholarships.

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Robert’s Answer

Hi Harry,

My advice is to make sure you know what you want to be when you grow up. When I was in high school I was pressured by my family and the high school to go to college. I was pressured to think that in order to be successful you had to go to a 4 year university. I ended up building up debt and had nothing to show for it. It is ok to take time to figure out your path. It is also ok to go to a trade school. Community colleges are a great way to take classes to fulfill basic requirements while still figuring out what you want to do and this will help you save money. As others have said, there are a lot of scholarships that nobody applies for. Do you research and apply to as many as you qualify for. Every little bit helps.

Best of luck,
Bob

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Timothy’s Answer

I did not do this, but I wish I did. A lot of my friends from high school went to a good community college in their area and took as many classes to get an Associated degree in 2 years, then transferred to another school for 2 years for their Bachelors.

The difference in the cost of community college vs. public university or even more expensive, private university, is huge.

Also, there are thousands of scholarships to apply for out there. Some are for $500, some for $5000, but it all adds up. I also wish I did this, so hope you can take advantage of it! Here's a website that does so: https://www.unigo.com/scholarships/high-school-students.

Best of luck!

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Carter’s Answer

Hey Harry, good question!

Like others have already mentioned, one of the best ways to afford college without getting in too much debt is to apply for as many scholarships that you can qualify for. The website called www.scholarships.com can be a helpful resource for you as the site does its best to match you with as many scholarships available to YOU based off a series of questions you answer (it's like a personalized filter).

I definitely recommend getting a part-time job while in school (preferably on campus too if you can) and save/put as much as you can towards your educational expenses. You might find that creating a simple Excel budget spreadsheet to be quite handy for this if you're not as confident yet in managing your own finances. If you haven't started college yet, try to get a job now so you can get a headstart on saving up.

Aside from all this advice, if you still must take out student loans try to get them through the Federal government first as they offer more favorable interest rates than Private student loans. If you still must take out Private student loans as well, just be aware that although the rates are very high, you can easily refinance them after you graduate and secure a much lower rate (assuming you have good credit then). As a rule of thumb, you generally only want to be refinancing Private student loans and not your Federal student loans for a variety of reasons that you can easily do a quick Google search on.

Good luck in college my friend you will figure it all out!

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Merri’s Answer

Here are a few options to consider:
- Scholarships and grants: if your high school has a counselor, see what scholarships and grants they are aware of, and do some internet searching, too. You can also check out the colleges you want to attend and see what financial support options they have.
- Consider community college: Sometimes it can be a financial help to attend a community college for your first two years to get the basics/core courses completed and then transfer to a four-year institution. Community colleges tend to be less expensive.
- Work study programs: See if the colleges you want to attend have good work-study programs to allow you the opportunity to work on campus/for the school.


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