There’s no getting around the fact that college is expensive. In fact, it is crazy-expensive. Even so, you want to avoid taking out loans if you don’t have to, so the question is how to afford college without loans? It’s not easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips to help make college more affordable without loans.
How to Afford College Without Loans
If you’re smart, and I know you are, you need to do everything you can to avoid student loans. Your life will be much happier and a lot less stressful.
Of course, there are times you might not have any other choice, but there are a lot of things you can try before you sign on the dotted line and take on a loan.
1. Fill Out the FAFSA Form
You might think that the FAFSA is only for loans, but that’s not true. It also allows you to apply for grants, such as the Pell Grant and other funding.
I got the Pell Grant one year and it made a big difference. Heck, it’s free money, so it certainly makes college more affordable.
It doesn’t take that long to fill out the form and submit it, so you should do so each year well before the deadline.
2. Go to a Community College
There is no reason, except your pride, to do your first two years of college anywhere but a community college.
For the most part, you will be taking general studies classes, so it doesn’t really matter where you go to take them.
Not to mention, community college is much cheaper than a four-year university. The difference can be thousands of dollars.
I went to a community college and was still able to transfer to a private school afterward for the last two years of my education.
You can also live at home, so that will save you a lot of money as well.
Just be sure that all of your classes are transferable. Talk to your counselor and check in the handbook as well.
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3. Check Out Scholarships and Grants
I know it can kind of be a pain to check into all the scholarships and grants that are out there but do it anyway.
If you can save a few thousand dollars on your education, then the pain is worth it.
Also, keep in mind, these aren’t just for kids out of high school, older students or adults going back to college can get them as well.
I got a really good scholarship once I started at my four-year university. Actually, I got two of them. It was a private school, so I got one from the state due to that fact, and then I got one from the school itself due to my good grades.
They added up to $10,000 dollars per year. Tuition at the time was $20,000 dollars a year, so it cut the price in half.
4. Make Sure You Go to the Right School
This plays in with grants and scholarships. I had applied to Florida State University – I was living in Florida at the time – and was accepted.
They offered me a scholarship of $1,000 per term. That wasn’t bad until I got the offer from the private school, the University of Tampa. That was the school that offered me a $10,000 a year scholarship.
Even though the University of Tampa was a lot more expensive than Florida State University, with the grant, the price was about the same.
Going to a college where there is one Ph.D. for every 15 students beats going to a large university to sit in a classroom with 300 other students.
So, check out what grants and scholarships are available to you and use those to make your decision as to where to go.
It could save you a lot of money and make college a lot more affordable without loans.
If you talk to the financial aid office at the schools you are interested in, they can show you all the options available to you. That’s what they are there for.
5. See If Your College Will Negotiate
Once you’ve been accepted to the college of your choice, give the financial aid office another call and see if they can find more money for you.
Oftentimes, a college will negotiate with you.
This is especially true if you have been accepted at a couple of schools. You can kind of play one off of the other.
Let them know what the other school is offering you and see if they can match it or beat it.
6. Take a Year Off After High School
If you’re in high school, consider taking a gap year and live at home and work full-time. This will allow you to save quite a bit of money for college.
Combining this with going to community college for two years will really make affording college much easier.
Just be sure you don’t go out and spend all the money you make. You will need to be very frugal for that year or else you are just wasting your time.
If you find a job at the right place, they may even help with your tuition, so check into any employer-paid tuition program.
7. Continue Working While in College
Once you start school, you can still continue to work part-time. There are always jobs in college towns. You might have to find something that isn’t very glamorous, but it can help make college more affordable.
I worked at McDonald’s for a time. I didn’t love it, but it gave me spending money and helped pay for my books.
My sister, who is a bit older than me, worked in a donut shop. She lived off-campus and it paid her living expenses and most of her college expenses.
8. Don’t Live on Campus
I know that many schools make freshmen live on campus. They might even make you live on campus during your second year of school as well.
Even so, as soon as you can, you should consider moving off-campus. Renting an apartment with a couple of roommates will make your living expenses decrease significantly.
This will help make going to college much more affordable.
If your college is close to home, living at home is the best option. I know when you go to college you want to get out of your parent’s house and experience all that college life offers, but this isn’t the way to go.
Campus housing costs can add thousands of dollars to your college expenses.
Living off-campus or at home frees up a lot of money that can go towards your tuition and fees.
9. Start Saving Money Before You Go to College
If you’re in high school, now is the time to start saving money for college.
Get a part-time, after school job and save the money you earn.
I worked at a small, family-owned grocery store while I was in high school. It was a great job.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t very smart at the time and I spent most of my money on clothes, but if I was a bit smarter, I could have saved all that money and it would have made paying for school a lot easier.
Just because you’re in high school doesn’t mean you can’t live on a budget. You may not have any expenses, but you want to set a little money aside for entertainment and necessities.
The rest should go towards upcoming college expenses.
To Sum it All Up:
There are a lot of ways to make college affordable without loans. You can take a year off between high school and college to save money for school. You can live off-campus or at home, or you can go to community college for the first two years. With a little planning, you can finish college without any student loans.