How to Afford College Without Your Parent’s Help

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Every year, thousands of teens go off to college and start their lives as adults. But what happens when your parents can’t afford to help you with your tuition? No one talks about it, but many new students have a hard time going to school without the support of their families. So how to afford college without your parent’s help? Here are some solutions.

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How to Afford College Without Your Parent’s Help

I know it can be a blow when your folks tell you they can’t or won’t help you pay for school. 

So, take a deep breath and count to ten, and then check out these tips to help get you there without your parent’s pocketbook.

1. Get a Job

The easiest way to deal with the cost of college is to earn the money yourself.

Paying your own way may not be easy, but you’ll learn a lot about responsibility and independence by working hard and earning every cent you spend.

There are many ways to earn money for college, even if you don’t have a job!

For example, you could babysit younger kids in your neighborhood or make crafts and sell them at craft fairs near the school.

Another idea is to find a local business that hires students.

The point is to start making money before you’re out of high school and save…save…save.

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2. Check Out Schools That Offer Merit-Based Aid

If you’re looking for financial aid, don’t forget to check out schools that provide generous merit-based scholarships.

These awards are given for your outstanding academic accomplishments and talent, and they don’t require a need-based financial aid application.

If you fit the bill, this kind of scholarship can be a great way to receive money for school without offering up your parent’s financial information.

Check with your guidance counselor about scholarships offered at schools near you.

When I went to college, I got merit-based aid. 

I was going to a private school and I received $10,000 dollars per year in merit-based aid. 

That paid for half of my tuition. 

It was a real help and I wouldn’t have been able to go to the school I selected otherwise.

So, if your grades are good, be sure to check this option out.

3. Enroll in a Community College First

Another popular solution is to go to community college first.


Because public two-year colleges usually offer excellent programs at an affordable cost.

Not only that but if you go to a community college you’ll be able to complete your first two years of general requirements at a much lower cost than a four-year university.

Then, when you transfer to a four-year school like the University of Pennsylvania, for example, the credits earned in your first two years will apply toward your undergraduate degree.

This is called course credit transfer and it’s a great way to save some money.

If you have a community college in your town, ask your parents if you can continue living with them while you are going to school.

This will make going to college even more affordable.

4. Start an Investment Account

Opening an investment account is a great way to start saving money for college.

Simply put away a little bit of money every month and watch as it grows into something amazing.

You can invest in almost any stock or bond product available today.

If you’re under 18, your folks will need to open the account for you.

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5.  Apply for Scholarships

A scholarship is a gift that covers part or all of your educational expenses.

Scholarships come from many sources, such as state and federal agencies, the schools themselves, and private foundations.

To find scholarships you can apply for, simply look online for scholarship search engines like

Another option is to browse through magazines about scholarships in your field of study.

6. Pick a Less Expensive School

This is a common but often overlooked solution.

If you’re concerned about the cost of college, one way to deal with this issue is to carefully research the cost of living in different areas.

You can compare the cost of tuition between different places and find schools that give you the most for your money.

Just because a college costs less doesn’t mean it isn’t as good as a more expensive school. 

You’ll still get a great education and you’ll save money at the same time.

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7. Work Part-Time While in College

Another great idea is to work while you attend college.

Working, even part-time, can help make ends meet.

This could include tutoring your fellow students on campus or interning for a local company.

Even if you have to work 10 hours a week and attend full-time classes, you’ll still be able to complete your degree in no time.

I worked at McDonald’s and later on Swiss Colony at the mall while in school. 

I didn’t love it, but it helped pay the bills.

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8. Get Student Loans

Loans are another way to get money for college.

Loans typically have low interest rates and come with flexible repayment plans.

They are a great way to cover your educational expenses until you find the job of your dreams, at which point you can start paying them back.

Just be sure you don’t take out any more than you actually need.

Otherwise, you will spend years paying them back.

9. Apply for Financial Aid

Another solution is to apply for financial aid if you qualify.

To apply for financial aid, simply fill out an application known as the FAFSA and submit it to the school of your choice (or schools).

You will likely qualify for at least some kind of financial aid if you demonstrate financial need and meet all eligibility requirements.

This will also allow you to apply for a work-study program.

10. Go to School Part-Time

One of the most important choices you’ll make is deciding whether to attend school part-time or full-time.

To access student aid, you must be enrolled at least half time (at least six credits).

Yes, it will take you longer to graduate, but it will be much easier to pay for school if you have a full-time job.

Those years pass anyway, so you might as well be racking up the college credits.

11. Apply for a Scholarship through One of Your School’s Clubs

Another idea is to join some clubs on campus and apply for an award through one of those clubs.

Many schools feature organizations that give out scholarships to their members each year.

This is true in high school as well.

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12. Join the Military

Another choice is to join the military or a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

In exchange for enrollment in the ROTC, the military will pay for your education and will even give you a monthly paycheck and living stipend.

The military also has the GI Bill which will give you money towards your college degree.

13. Get a Work-study Job

When choosing schools to apply to, look for schools with work-study programs that fit your schedule and need for money.

If you have a specific major in mind, prioritize these schools when you apply.

Work-study jobs are typically low-stress and help you earn money while getting your degree.

I did one of those as well. I graded papers for my accounting professor. 

I also answered student’s questions in the accounting lab. 

It was pretty easy money.

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14. Check Out Trade Schools

Trade schools might be another option if you’re unable to afford a traditional four-year school.

Trade schools offer vocational training in certain fields that are currently experiencing high demand for workers.

A trade school might be a great option for you if you have some experience already or you’re fairly certain you want to pursue a particular line of work.

15. Online Courses

If a traditional university is not your thing or if you can’t afford a traditional university, consider taking online classes instead.

Online learning is growing in popularity as well as value and quality.

There are also many online colleges that provide valuable degrees at an affordable price with minimal time commitments.

16. Work Full-Time for a Year Before You Start School

This is one of the best ways to save money for college.

If you take a year off from school and work full-time (at least 30 hours per week), you can earn anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 or more that you can use to help pay for school.

This idea is very appealing because you get paid while also building your resume and saving enough money to cover the tuition costs for one year of school.

Plus, if you can go back to school full-time after working instead of part-time, you’ll only be taking classes for two years before earning a bachelor’s degree; four years if this is your first bachelor’s.

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To Sum it Up:

College is expensive and getting more so every year. If your folks can help you pay for it you’ll have to come up with a way to cover the costs. From going to a community college for two years to work-study programs you’ll find a way if you take some time to research your options.

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