A Guide to Paying For School: Finding Free Money For College

A Guide to Paying For School: Finding Free Money For College
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The Yearly Dilemma

One of the big issues facing most potential college students is money. Whether it is money for tuition, books or simply living expenses, most college students have faced this issue during their academic career–in fact, the search for college money begins anew each year. Although there is not one simple program or method to keep you out of all potential financial situations, there are some tactics that you can try to help during times of trouble or to prepare for future financial issues.

Your Initial Strategy

There are some very basic items that you need to do before you examine any other form of funding. Your first step should be to fill out the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Federal Application for Free Student Aid, and every college wants every applicant to fill one out. This document will log all of your financial information and allows the financial aid department to determine your need. This is a simple but time-consuming form to fill out and needs to be done patiently and thoroughly.

Types of Funding Available Through the FAFSA

You have filled out the FAFSA and you’re curious about what types of help you will receive. There are a few different types of loans and awards that are tied to the FAFSA. Not all of them are loans and need to be paid back. Some such as the Stafford or Perkins Loan will need to be paid back with interest after graduation or if you drop below part-time as a student. Here are a few links that will help you better understand loan terminology.

What Parents Can Do to Help Save for College

Much of the information so far has been for the individual student either starting school or returning. Parents need to start considering saving money for school as soon as possible if they wish for their child to attend college. This does not mean that you will have to put away large amounts of money, particularly if you start early, but you need to consider what type of school the child may attend and the cost of the university.

Additional Options to Help Pay For College

Even after you have been granted loans or other funds, you may still need some assistance to pay for college. There are some simple options for you to consider that can provide this financial security. As a student you need to understand that budgeting will also be important. By budgeting your money and attempting to go without some certain items, you will be able to create a little bit of a cushion for something unexpected. Included in this section are some potential ways to help alleviate your financial burden.

Good Jobs for Students

Students can also work while they are in college. Although there may not seem to be any really great jobs out there that pay more than minimum wage, there are some things to keep in mind. Make sure the schedule is flexible to allow you to schedule classes. Working overnight might be an option to consider or working weekends. Keep in mind that working for tips is another good idea. It offers cash in hand at the end of a shift as well as a regular paycheck. Here are some other ideas to help earn cash.

Acquiring Outside Loans

One of the things you may encounter is a maxing out of your loan money for the year or throughout your academic career. If this happens, there are a few other options to consider to get a short-term loan through a bank or another agency. Although this can create a deeper issue after you have the semester paid for, sometimes there is no other option available.

Keep Your Options Open

These are just some of the ways to find cash for college. This guide does not cover every single method, but it offers a good start. Every situation is different for each individual and you need to keep your options open. Listen for potential scholarships and check the message boards around your campus for part-time work such as cutting grass, peer tutoring or cooking for a dinner party. Just keep in mind that there is a multitude of options out there.


  • Karabell, Zachery. “What’s College For?” Basic Books, 1998.