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College Preparedness

7 Tips to Help Pay for College


Nick Safko

Communications Coordinator, National Scholarship Providers Association

Affordability is usually the biggest factor in college access and completion. Even if you can’t afford a sticker price of $20,000-$50,000 or more per year, there are other ways to fund your college education.

1. Your counselor is your friend

Start an ongoing dialogue with your high school counselor about career paths, college choices and how to find and apply for scholarships. The better they know you, they better they can help you.

2. Do your research

Once you have a list of potential colleges, talk to the admissions or financial aid offices at those schools. Don’t wait until you’re accepted to investigate their options. Some institutions offer school-wide and department-specific awards.

3. Ask about an appeal

If the amount you would owe out-of-pocket is still unrealistic after receiving your financial aid award package, ask if your school offers an appeal process that could help add to the financial aid you receive.

4. Fill out FAFSA ASAP

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it becomes available each year in October. Filing within the first three months of the annual cycle increases your odds of receiving more grant money — that’s free aid you don’t have to pay back.

5. Hard work pays off

Approach scholarships like they’re a job. It takes time, dedication and persistence to secure scholarship dollars. Utilize scholarship search engines such as Fastweb or explore the Best Scholarship Search Platform vetted by Research local community organizations such as the Lions Club and Rotary Club which offer scholarships. Already have a major in mind? Check if there are professional associations that offer awards.

6. Local versus national

There are pros and cons to both local and national scholarships. National scholarships usually offer larger awards, whereas local scholarships tend to have better odds of “winning.” Use good judgment and time management to determine how much effort to put into each application. Would you spend the same amount of time on an award for $500 as you would on a full-ride?

7. Beware of scams

Be wary of any resource that charges a fee for scholarship information or application — they’re usually a scam. Students should never pay for this information.

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