Can You Help Me Figure Out How To Afford To Attend College? (Your Advice)

your advice

Most of those who attend college don’t have their parents paying for it or have a scholarship that pays for a full ride. That means that they are responsible for at least a portion of the cost of going to college. I think a lot of young people would be in a lot better financial shape if they did some planning before they actually stepped foot in college like the young woman who sent me this e-mail is trying to do:

I will be a senior in high school next school year and I hope that you can help me with a big problem I have. I really want to go to college, but my mom can’t afford to help me pay for it. All the expenses are going to be mine. I know that I’m going to have to take out some loans to make this dream come true, but I don’t want to take out thousands and thousands of dollars in loans.

I have a little over a year to start planning. I haven’t chosen a college yet and I’m not too set on going to one specific college at this point. I want to know what is the best way for me to get a college education without spending lots and lots of money. Any help that you can give me will help me to make my dream of going to college possible. Thank you for your help.

It’s not often that you find someone this young already thinking about the best financial moves to make and it is something that we adults should encourage. I hope that everyone that reads this will take a few moments of their time to write some suggestions and give advice on how to save money on a college education so that she can attend, get her degree and graduate with a minimum amount of debt.

(Photo courtesy of Colin Kinner)

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8 Responses to Can You Help Me Figure Out How To Afford To Attend College? (Your Advice)

  1. Tyler says:

    The good thing for her is that she is young and will learn from this experience. It will impact her the rest of her life. I am 24 and I am paying cash for my MBA. All this with a full time job, wife, house, dog, and other commitments. It can be done. The first thing I would do is find out what school she wants to go to. The best thing she could do is go to a school in state or a surrounding state that has reciprocity. The tuition rates will be much more expensive if she were to go out of state. Stay in state if possible. Next, find out the total cost of classes, housing, and food. This will give her some numbers that she can compare with to other schools in the state. After she has these narrowed down, talk with the school’s financial aid department. They can give her a ton of resources for possible scholarships, grants, and Govt. assistance. There is simply WAY TOO MUCH money not being utilized from lack of people applying for scholarships. I know because I know friends who applied for a scholarship and got it because they were the only ones applying for it. Quite amazing. Work a part time job over the school year if possible to save up – work full time over the summer. Hard work will pay off in the end even though it seems impossible right now. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway… 🙂

  2. mitchell says:

    first and foremost, complete the FAFSA. if you’re in need, the government should help defer some costs.

    this is a good place to start, but make sure to start now. if you’re only just now thinking about this stuff, you’re behind a decent crowd of people.

  3. Mary says:

    I was in the exact same predicament when I started college, and now I have a masters degree. here is my advice to you:

    1.Get Pell Grants, they don’t have to be repaid.

    2. Go to a college in your home state- don’t even look at other colleges. The cost savings can be tremendous.

    3. Apply for a work-study program immediately upon enrolling.

    4.Work every summer and live at home to save money.

    5. Work right now and save your money.

    My high school had a program that would allow you to leave school at noon every day to go to work your senior year, and this is what I did.

    I still graduated with 30k in student loan debt, and that included graduate school. I got a high paying job, though, and that debt has long been paid off.

  4. vsjhoc says:

    I never understood people who said you shouldn’t work while you’re in school because you need to concentrate on your studies. What better time to start learning to multitask.

    A friend had a full scholarship, partied too much and lost it. She was too embarrased to tell her parents, so she got a full-time job and a part-time job and stayed in school full-time. When she was a senior and interviewing for jobs, a Fortune 50 company snapped her up fast. At first, they thought she lied or made a mistake on her resume because nobody could have pulled it off.

    She’s now one of the people I most admire and everyone says “how does she do it all?” Answer: she learned by working while in college. This may be a bit OT, but I think it illustrates the point that working while in school won’t kill you. I did it.

  5. cmalloooom says:

    Your goals should be to a)keep costs down and b)fund your college expenses. You can keep costs down by living at home as long as possible, going to school locally to avoid paying out of state tuition, go to a community college first before transferring, finding a job that can help keep your costs down, ie., working in a restaurant where you get meals. you will be better off if you work while in school, be it part-time or full-time. a great source of good income if you aren’t ready to start working in your field is waiting tables. the hours are flexible, and the hourly rate is good. now is the time to start getting experience, if you have to host or buss tables to get your foot in the door. definitely pursue all of your financial aid options. grants, scholarships, loans. Think of researching and applying for financial aid as a job. the more effort you put in , the more money you will get. everyone else’s comments are very right on… it may not seem so great right now, but generally people who have to fund their own education tend to get more out of the experience, and finish school better equipped with the skills to survive in the real world. Odds are, if you’re paying for that class out of your own pocket, you’ll be less inclined to blow it off.

  6. Debbie says:

    1. Study hard for the SAT–a good score can get you some scholarship offers.

    2. Fill out FAFSA, the key to all financial aid, as recommended.

    3. Take those tests where you can get college credit for stuff you learned in high school. DO NOT use these for courses in your major, because a good review will be invaluable. (I had a friend who tested out of intro physics but then ended up lost in his classes for a long time!) But this is the cheapest way to get credit for general education requirements such as English, science, history, and foreign language.

    4. Start with community colleges, also as already recommended, and talk to advisers there about how courses will transfer to four-year colleges. In my state (TX), they don’t all transfer and some that do may not count toward the degree you want, so you need to check ahead of time.

    5. In most cases people do not get jobs directly related to their major. Pick a major you will enjoy–explore at the community college level if necessary. Then find a four-year college that is a good match (look at major, size, setting, male/female ratio, etc.). You may get offers (with scholarships) from out-of-state colleges if your SAT scores are good enough, so don’t dismiss those out of hand. Of course you need to go into Engineering if you want to be an engineer, but things are much more flexible than most people will lead to you to believe. Even if you want to be a doctor, you can major in anything you like so long as you also take take the prerequisite science and math courses.

    6. Studies have shown that working 10-15 hours a week during college is correlated with better grades than working more or working not at all. Working more than that is sad–you should take advantage of various learning opportunities outside the classroom that are available at colleges.

    7. Look into internships in fields of interest. If they don’t pay, look into getting course credit. This will allow you to try out fields and can sometimes lead to job offers.

    8. Talk to counselors at your high school and local colleges–some of them won’t have a clue, but some might have some very interesting suggestions or get you thinking about other important issues. Advisers at four-year colleges are happy to talk to prospective students about their options and about strategies. College advising has become more professionalized in the last decade or so, and so you might get much better results than your parents did.

    9. If you have to move away from home, get roommates (to save money). If you end up not liking your roommate, you will be motivated to spend less time at home and more time at the library, so it won’t be all bad. Learn to cook. Bring your lunch to school rather than eating out or using vending machines. Find ways to get free t-shirts and buy other clothes at thrift shops. Find out what books you’ll be needing ASAP and buy them used online. And join student organizations to continue or develop new hobbies for free or very inexpensively.

    10. Make friends and get involved. (This is easiest if you live in a dorm the first year–with a roommate to save money of course. Joining student organizations and creating study groups can also help.) This makes you happier because you feel more like you belong, so you can spend more of your energy on studying instead of being sad and homesick. Also, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way–you can learn some things from your friends. If your friends are good influences, then you can also be more productive and more likely to graduate in a reasonable amount of time. Form study groups. Find out what student services are available (such as learning centers and health centers) and take advantage of them when they might help.

    11. If you want to be a social worker, it will be difficult to pay back your student loans with your low wages, high stress, and long hours. Especially in this case, plan your courses so you can finish as quickly as possible.

  7. Matthew says:

    All the advice above is good, except for the recommendation of going to community college. It is well know in Texas that the tranfer rates from community college are very low; however, California has a unique system and this is not the case.

    The FAFSA will calculate your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) which is based on your parents income and assets. I will give you a rough guideline. If you mother makes 20,000 dollars or less a year, has no major assets (stocks, bonds, etc.) and is the only provider, you can expect to have an EFC of 0. This means that the per federal requirments the university is required to meet your cost of attendence – EFC. This WILL include Federal loans. Fortunatly for you they have set interest rates which are very low. For instance a friend of mine has 20,000 in federal student loans and his monthly payment is approx. 75$. When you get in the real world you will realize this is extremely managable.

    Pick something you enjoy doing and that has real world job potential and you will be set.

  8. lmlh says:

    I work for a non-profit organization that has just awarded over $100,000 in scholarships this spring, here in a midwestern small town. Here are my sugestions:

    Start searching NOW for scholarship opportunities. Talk to your guidance counselor, do a google search online. One word of warning: if you have to PAY to apply for a scholarship, DON’T!! It’s a rip-off!

    If your hometown has a Community Foundation, start there. That’s where I work and we are best known for our scholarships.

    Ask about scholarships where you work, where your parents work, etc. For example, Wal-mart offers scholarships to employees’ children.

    Many banks and credit unions offer scholarships to their account holders.

    What are your family’s outside affilliations? Many churhces offer scholarships, many service organizations too (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc). If there are veterans in your family, check with the VFW and American Legion.

    Speaking from personal experience — many of the scholarships we offer where I work require that you write an essay. If you are good at writing, you will have a TREMENDOUS advantage over applicants who are not. Lots of students don’t even bother applying for the scholarships that require an esay — I guess they can’t be bothered! I suggest you pick an essay subject at random (maybe something like “why do you want to go to college?”) and start praticing NOW. Write a draft, go back and polish, and PROOFREAD!!

    Also — there are LOTS of scholarships out there that are small amounts, maybe $200, etc. Many students ignore these. I always compare it to a patchwork quilt — that one little square of cloth isn’t enough to keep you warm — but stitch enough small pieces together, and you wind up with an entire blanket!

    Best of luck to you. I bet you’ll go far!

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