Lifelong learners, we salute you! We know that pursuing higher education is no easy task, and it can be even more intimidating on a limited budget. However, you’re already a smart cookie for valuing education (high fives, BTW). Let’s work together to figure out the funding aspect with a few universal tips to shrink those school expenses:
You’ve likely heard this fun acronym tossed around in relation to student aid. It’s an important one to remember! This Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will throw open the doors to accessible grants and affordable loans. As FAFSA is a federal program, you can have confidence in the funding options offered to you – and depending on your circumstances, grant opportunities will help defer a great deal of your upfront educational costs.
Don't be shy about scholarships
For some folks, scholarships have a stigma of elitism, as if they’re only available to students with the absolute best grades, skills, etc. While striving for your most awesome self is always encouraged, don’t be deterred from applying for scholarships if you need them. Just go for it! Keep in mind that different scholarship programs are looking for different qualities in applicants (for instance, Credit Union 1’s program values community outreach and philanthropy) – so search for opportunities that best match your strengths, and put yourself out there.
Search out a side job
We’re NOT talking “work yourself raw during hours when you should be sleeping.” Instead, if you need an income flow to make it through the school year, search out something that can be flexible with your schedule and perhaps even fits with your longtime career goals. For instance, if you’re studying education, try nannying in your free time to polish your ability to juggle children. If you’re studying business, offer your budding skills to a local small business in part-time capacity. You’ll earn cash to keep food on the dorm room table, and you’ll also enhance your resume.
This tip applies to lots of phases of life, but it’s quite critical to college students in particular. Secondhand textbooks will save you a fortune on classroom expenses, secondhand furniture will help furnish your dorm or apartment without breaking the bank. If you need a vehicle to get to class, steer clear of shiny (expensive!) options and remember that student loan payments are more important at this stage in life.
Balance your borrowing
Worried that if you accept too many student loans, you’ll be repaying them for the rest of your life? Don’t stress; the “lifetime of student debt” saying is a stereotype. With federally backed loans in particular, you’ll have the opportunity to pay your loans off as quickly as you’d like OR choose a payment plan that suits your circumstances while repaying funds over a ten year span. Be conscious of how much debt you’ve accrued and what a monthly payment may look like (your creditor will always offer you that info) – but so long as you take note of entry and exit loan counseling, don’t worry that you’ve chained yourself to a debt you can’t repay.