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8 Tips on Paying for College

So, you’ve graduated high school, been accepted to a college or university, and your parents want you to go to college, but they refuse to pay for it. Oh my dear goodness, what to do?! Well, I’ve been there, done that, still doing it, and will be dealing with it for the remainder of my 20s.

College is a scary idea. You have to find a major, commit to a major, attend more difficult classes (that triple in size), make friends, live in a dorm, eat crappy food, balance work and play, keep fit and pay for all of it on top of all that stress. How do we do it? Well, I assure you, if thousands of other kids can do it, you can as well.

Going into my freshman year of college, I had no idea how I was going to pay for it, and, surprisingly, neither did my parents. They were just as worried as I was because they never had to deal with paying for college, seeing as how they never went. They didn’t know how student loans worked, or what a FAFSA was. I had an older sister who attended community college, but because it is so much more affordable, she never had to deal with loans. I was so lost and confused, and I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to even go to college because of it.

I am from Ohio, but because I’m within 60 miles of Ball State, I was given an “instate” status. This meant that in my freshman year I only had to pay instate tuition, and it was such a relief. Unfortunately, after accepting Architecture as my major, my second year, I was told because of the competitiveness of the major, I would have to pay out-of-state tuition. Don’t worry if you’re not looking into architecture, because I believe this is the only major that does this. This was going to more than double my tuition. I was terrified. I still am terrified. I have to find a way to pay nearly 30 grand for each of my remaining years at Ball State and figure out how to pay for graduate school. I’m still constantly stressing about how to pay for it.  But guess what, I’m dealing with it, and I’m still going to school, so let that inspire you.

STOP WORRYING. There are a million resources that can help you, and seeing as how you’ve already been proactive in the stressful job of applying for college, and that you’ve been accepted, I KNOW you can find a way to pay for it.

1. Apply for scholarships!

Whether it’s 5 dollars or 5 thousand dollars, every dollar matters! High schools tend to have scholarship lists in the guidance offices, don’t be shy in applying for anything you feel like you are eligible for.  Check with your parent’s jobs, credit unions, banks, etc. (Especially jobs that involve the city and state). Get on those annoying, e-mail bombarding scholarship sites. They can be helpful in finding scholarships that apply to you. Trust me, it doesn’t matter what race you are, there are scholarships for EVERYTHING, don’t be doubtful. Also, if you don’t get any scholarships your first year, always remember that there are more scholarships for upper-classmen than an incoming freshman. People want proof that you’re going to do well with their money before they give it to you.

2. Colleges have counselors for a reason!

The best resource I had when I was clueless about financial aid was Ball States financial counselors. If you are a prospective student, they will make sure you get an appointment with a counselor ASAP for FREE.  All you have to do is call and make the drive. Making an appointment and driving to your college is the perfect reason to go hang around campus and get used to it, if you haven’t, catch up with some friends, go to the bookstore to buy some t-shirts, or eat the local food. It’s not a waste of time. Counselors are trained in giving you the best advice in finance and can thoroughly explain to you the measures you need to take.

3. Loans

If your parents aren’t on board with paying for your college, loans are probably the way to go. Yes, it sounds like the worst idea and it will take some time to do, and interest will bite you in the butt, but most times that’s what you have to do. You can choose who you loan from. Some loan from big names like Sallie Mae, others loan from their local banks but know that it’s not difficult to get one as long as you have someone to co-sign the loan. Before you make the loan, most places make you take a survey on how loans work, so don’t be worried about not understanding the process. Talk it through with your parents, and REVIEW AND READ THE INTEREST AND PAY BACK PLANS. The best way to go is usually the deferral, which means you won’t pay back the loan until after college. Usually, these places won’t make you pay back until graduation or even 6 months to 2 years after graduation, but you’re still paying for even more interest. So if you plan on making time for a job during college, maybe you could make monthly payments on your loans. Even small monthly installments will be helpful.

4. Jobs

Colleges know you’re hurting for money, and they will help you in any way possible to get that money. Ball State has a site online, as well as a career center, to help you find an on-campus job that works for you. The jobs that most apply to students are Resident Assisting jobs as well as Resident Hall Staff. If you work as a Resident Hall Staff member, you could work in your residence hall, or one close by, doing simple desk jobs. This is a convenient job and it’s even offered during night hours if you can’t pull it off during the day. If you become a Resident Assistant your sophomore year or upper years, you get FREE, well not free because you work for it, but FREE room and board. Which means you get a whole room to yourself and an awesome food plan. This job not only help you significantly pay for school, but it looks awesome on job applications and it helps you make a ton of friends. Don’t overlook that opportunity. Of course it’s a job, so it has its drawbacks, but nonetheless, if you are desperate for money, it WILL help.

You also may find an off-campus job. For example, I have a part-time job at, which doesn’t take much time so I can give proper attention to my classes. So my advice: try several options and choose one that suits you the most.

5. Housing

On campus housing is SO expensive. In my first year of college, I paid 7,000 dollars for room and board, and 8,200 dollars my second year (because I updated to a nicer dorm). That’s nearly a thousand dollars each month for room and board. Because of your freshman year you have to live in a dorm, don’t sweat it because the money is worth making all the friends, but after that don’t get tricked into paying SO much. Yes, being on campus and in a dorm is nice, but paying back all that money isn’t! I’m a junior in college, and this year I am renting a house for 385 a month, all utilities included, and I probably pay about 150 dollars in groceries, and on top of that, I’m a 3-minute walk from campus. I’ve cut my living expenses in half. Yes, keeping up with a house or apartment is more work, but it is worth it. This year I am saving 5,000 dollars by living off-campus. Be quick each fall with looking for living arrangements the next year. It’s never too early to sign a lease for next year. People jump on houses and apartments as soon as school starts, so DO NOT procrastinate!

6. Friends

I know you have other friends going to college, so don’t try to tell me you don’t. Talking about money with friends is a difficult subject, but do it anyway. Ask them how they are paying for college. I’m sure they are in a similar situation. Even ask their parents questions about how to find a good place to loan from. If they’ve been through it, they can surely help you. If you don’t ask questions and don’t use your resources, then yes, it will be very challenging to pay for college.

7. Parents

As much as your parents say they won’t help you, try to bargain with them. My parents don’t want to pay for my college, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help because all parents want to see their kids succeed. Ask them to, at the very least, cosign a loan. At the minimum, if they can do that, they’re helping. Another step is asking if they can give you a little money each month to put towards living expenses. What my parents do is great. They don’t pay on my loans, but the interest on my loans. If they pay the interest off, then all I have to pay is the actual amount I loaned, which is extremely helpful. Even if your parents can pay 10 dollars a month, it’s helpful. Know that your parents want you to pay for college because it’s a learning experience, and it’s your responsibility as an adult now. Don’t think they love you any less. And if they have already decided to help you, consider telling them about a parent plus loan refinancing. This will help them pay off the debt quicker.

8. Don’t Waste Time!

It’s never too early to be thinking about how you’re going to pay for college. The earlier, the better. If you will be applying for loans, don’t wait! DO IT NOW. The quicker they accept you or reject you, the quicker you can move on to option B or prepare other things for school. You will be doing a lot of procrastinating in college, but don’t let this be one of those things!

These are just the best 8 tips that I thought would be helpful. They are the things that have helped me most in paying for college, and they will continue to. Don’t be afraid to be proactive and bug people until you understand the process. As an adult, you need to take hold of your finances and learn how to deal with situations like this, because it’s what you’re going to be doing the rest of your life.

Don’t let money divert you from what you want to do with your life. Ultimately, if you’re doing what you love, the money will find its way.

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