Financing college is something that should start early in life, but can start at any time. Here are the top 5 ways to finance college without having to take out a loan:
1. Get stellar grades and earn merit-based scholarships.
- Students with outstanding grades are eligible for merit-based scholarships in most private colleges and some public universities. Once accepted, colleges utilize a formula to determine who earns the most merit aid. Depending on your overall GPA, this can range from $10,000 to $30,000 per year. This article provides more information about earning merit based financial aid.
2. Set up a 529 college savings account.
- This account allows parents and students to put money aside for college even if it is done a few years before attending college. A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Read more about how to enroll in California’s 529 college savings plan.
3. Apply for Grants and Scholarships.
- If you don’t apply for a scholarship, there is no way you will you receive it. Many grants and scholarships go unfulfilled. Join an online scholarship service now to learn about the types of scholarships you may apply for. Suggested services include FastWeb.com and Scholarships.com (Parents can sign up, too). In addition, once you are in college, there are school-based scholarships as well as general scholarships that can be applied for each year.
4. Work during college. (Pay as you go).
- Many students work while attending college. Studies have shown that working during college causes students to be more successful overall. In addition, this provides increased opportunities for networking and for building your resume. The website, University Parent, provides some insights for students working during college.
5. Grandparents or other family members.
- Talk with your relatives and ask them if they would be willing to help out with financing part of your college. Whether it is for books and supplies, a computer, transportation or tuition, you will never know until you ask. There are many strategic ways grandparents can help with college costs.