Making Sense of Your College Years

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  • When you are thinking about a college education, you may be feeling nervous about the money that is required. College education in the United States is more expensive than it has ever been in history, and it seems like resources are more scarce than ever before. What can you do to pay for college in a way that does not leave you in debt for the rest of your life? What resources should you be looking out for?

    Every Scholarship Counts

    It doesn’t matter whether you are looking at a scholarship for 5000 dollars or 500 dollars. Apply for it, because every bit helps. It also looks great on future paperwork to say that you earned a certain scholarship or that you were a finalist for one. Remember that the right scholarship can take thousands of dollars off of your college education, but given the fact that scholarships are scarcer than they once were, you also need to pursue other options.

    Don’t Forget the FAFSA

    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form that needs to be part of your college experience. It does not mater whether you are afraid that you will not get anything. The FAFSA distributes cash on a need-basis, but the amounts for which you might be eligible are going to vary. Fill it out, and be diligent about it every year. As time goes on and you separate from your parents’ finances, you will be eligible for more money.

    Federal Grants

    Federal grants give you the money to put towards your education, and they are competitive, so get your applications in early. One great place to start is with the Pell Grant, which gives out thousands of dollars every year to help students move their education forward.

    Bargain

    One thing that many students do not know is that they can bargain with their schools. If you have several competing offers, and if you are undecided on where you want to go, you can ask for discounts on your tuition. Lay out your offers in front of your first choice and see if you can get a better deal. It may feel a little strange to be bargaining for your higher education, but this is something that can yield results.

    Choosing the Right Loan

    If you come up short with regards to funding, you will find that a loan is required. First, do not simply try to charge your college education to a credit card. The high interest rates from credit cards will only accumulate over time, and you will end up paying a lot more money than you need to. Your best bet is to get a loan from a government lender. Loans from private institutions like Wells Fargo tend to be a lot less forgiving and also the amounts are typically less. There is nothing wrong with getting a loan, but make sure that you have the right one. Go through the loan details with a fine-toothed comb. When will you need to start paying it back, and what are the interest rates like? The truth of the matter is that getting the right college loan is like figuring out home equity. It takes time to figure things out, but it is worth it in the end.

    Work Study

    If you are willing to work for the college or university that you are attending, you may be able to get some money shaved off of your tuition. Work study programs may place you in the dining all, in the library or in the administrative office, and even better, these places work well with your class schedule, meaning that you will be able to get to all of your classes. This is something that can make a huge difference to your financial security.

    Manage Your Money

    It is very easy to overspend when you come to college. You may have never had a credit card of your own, or you may find that you need to think about things like housing and purchasing your own food. College has a reputation for being a time when people get themselves in debt, so don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Build a budget that will allow you to keep emergency money in your pocket, and remember that that money should only really be used for an emergency. Good spending habits today will pay off in the long run.

    Consider Your Expenses

    The general wisdom about college is that you do not need a car, but things change. The best reason to keep a car is if you have to work off of campus. Otherwise, you can likely skip this expense. Similarly, look for housing that is not in the heart of campus in order to minimize your rent requirements.

    There are some fantastic options open to you when you are looking to make the most of your college debt so think about what your needs are.

    Author: Written by Thomas Caulen, a senior writer from a trusted online financial resource for mortgage loans, real estate trends and news. Working on topics for sustainable financing, stocks and real estate trends. He is also a green housing business specialist helping families reduce carbon footprints with their homes.

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