Great question Samuel! I know how daunting it can seem to try and figure out ways to pay for college. In my past, I did not have any financial support entering into the university. Here are a few things that I did that hopefully you will find helpful:
- Scholarships - I applied for every scholarship that I was eligible for. While many universities offer scholarships, so do many business, community, and religious institutions. Look in your local area or the local area of the university you desire to attend to see what scholarships you can find.
- Grants - Apply for grants. There are Federal and State grants. Grants are great because typically it is money that you can apply to school without having to pay it back. A good place to start here is to look up and fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It is available to fill out at https://fafsa.ed.gov.
- On Campus Work - Many universities have programs where you can work on campus and get discounts or money towards your tuition as a result. These jobs can help reduce some of the overall costs of college.
- Seek Online Opportunities - There are many online universities that are fully accredited that have reduced costs versus being on campus. If you can complete some of your generals here or at a local community college, it can save you money in the long run.
- Tuition Reimbursement - Some companies offer assistance in the form of prepaid tuition or tuition reimbursement. If applying for jobs, look online at what others say about the potential benefits. Ask if the company offers prepaid tuition or tuition reimbursement.
- Loans - You can get low interest student loans that defer payback until you are done with school. In this case, if you plan to hold a job while going through college, look for opportunities to get ahead in saving to pay these loans back or in actually paying them back.
I hope these tips help. It is a great feeling when you finish college and have no debt to repay. I am confident you'll do great things as you embark on this path.
Jeremy gave you some great ideas but I would like to add that many scholarships are also available within certain clubs and groups on campus. For example, the Accounting Society group had tons of scholarships available within the group of 100 students, which increased the odds of receiving one. Additionally, a way to save costs on college is to offset the expense with on-campus employment. Being a resident assistant on campus is a great way to earn 100% free housing and food for the school year, but I would do further research of the position to see if it's something you'd be interested in. I was an RA for two years to save on such expenses, and it was a great role with flexible hours and was easy to fit into my regular routine. Best of luck!
To build on Jeremy's answer, I would say that it's also important to look at the average financial package being offered at the schools you're applying for. Many have a financial calculator on their website that allows you to input your income and family size and will give you an estimate of your financial aid.
Use this information to your advantage and consider applying to schools that maximize their financial aid packages. Also consider whether these schools have merit scholarships that you can apply for.