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Paying for college when you’re broke

Updated on August 8, 2015
erinshelby profile image

Erin Shelby is passionate about living a lifestyle that aims for financial freedom. She writes about personal finance and other topics.

Many students worry how they will pay for college.
Many students worry how they will pay for college. | Source

Graduating college is an achievement, but the journey can be a struggle. Aside from the academic work expected of a student, the financial burden of college can be overwhelming. Here's how to pay for college when you don't have enough money.

Work Off-Campus

Is a work-study job a good idea? While a work-study job can help you earn money, it will probably pay less than an off-campus job. Off-campus jobs can offer lucrative benefits such as tuition reimbursement, employer-funded retirement plans and stock options. Pay for college with money from an off-campus job.

College Students Save on Supplies

You may be offered a huge student loan, but borrowing only what is absolutely necessary can save you trouble in the future. Learn to use coupons if you live off-campus so you can save on food, clothing and other expenses. Pass on using a credit card for tuition. There are other strategies for financing your education. While these methods take a longer amount of time, they will spare you the sleepless nights and worry that comes from credit card debt.

Adhering to deadlines is crucial when applying for scholarships.
Adhering to deadlines is crucial when applying for scholarships. | Source

Scholarships for School

If you’re worrying about how to get through this semester, planning for how to pay for next year isn’t on your mind. But if you missed out on some scholarships this year, next year can be different. Before campus closes for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, start looking at scholarships for next year. While this might sound too early, many scholarships require references from individuals who will need to write a letter on your behalf. In order to properly advocate for you, these individuals will appreciate a month’s notice to write a good letter for you.

Scholarships & Grants for College

There are a plethora of scholarship and grant opportunities available for college students, with grade point average and income being a significant factor in how much you may earn. Your college can also tell you what other organizations are offering free money such as alumni groups, civic organizations, alumni and businesses. Faith-based organizations including The United Methodist Church offer scholarship opportunities for church members.

How to find scholarships for college

  • Your college financial aid office is the best place to start looking for free money for college.
  • If your parent works for the city, state or federal government, you may be eligible to apply for a scholarship through the union.
  • If you're over the age of 21, check if your school offers “nontraditional” or "lifelong learner" student scholarships.
  • Nationwide and local non-profit groups offer scholarships based on gender, race or life experience such as chronic illness or military service.
  • Professional groups sponsor scholarships for college students who will eventually become their colleagues.

Full-Time College? Maybe

Going to college full-time isn't the only way to get an education. Your finances may dictate that the best path is working full-time and going to night school. For another person, it may be going to school part-time and working part-time. For others, online college is the perfect solution. If you have the desire to finish your degree, disregard those who tell you that sticking to a four-year timeline is the only way to get it done.

© 2013 erinshelby


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    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the comment, Nancy. Student loan debt is a big problem for many people. I hope that students (and their parents) reading this can take steps to minimize that debt.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

      Great advice, Erinshelby! I especially liked that you included the caution about student loans. Only borrowing the minimum you can get by with is so important. I know people who have student loans adding up to $90,000 and even upwards of $100,000. It can be really tough to pay all that money back right after you get out of school.