CollegeFinancial Aid

How to Pay for College

Tips to help you afford the true cost of attending college.

Are you planning how to pay for college? As you do your research, you’ll find how the cost of attendance is much higher than the advertised tuition. There are costs that must be factored in when calculating the true cost of going to college.

Many schools have gone virtual or partial long-distance learning due to coronavirus. In response, some schools have decreased tuition or provide discounts to students impacted by the pandemic.

You can read more about the basics of financial aid.

Calculate the actual cost of attendance

There are other expenses that need to be factored into college expenses. These are other expenses that relate to your college life including room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, transportation, and miscellaneous.

  • Room and board: dorm or apartment costs, water, electricity/gas, cable, Internet, phone, groceries, snacks, and eating out.
  • Books and supplies: books, school supplies, lab fees, and computer.
  • Program fees: club dues, membership costs, and field trips.
  • Personal expenses: clothing, laundry, toiletries, haircuts, and entertainment costs.
  • Transportation: vehicle fees, parking, gas, maintenance, and travel (family and vacations) costs.
  • Miscellaneous: insurance premiums; monthly cell phone bills; or health expenses not covered by insurance.

Apply for financial aid to pay for college

To pay for college, you must consider financial aid offered at the federal, state, and university levels. Apply early with the FAFSA and update your information if necessary to reflect your economic situation. Learn how to get the most financial aid.

Keep a calendar with all deadlines

Have a calendar detailing all required tests, admissions, and financial aid deadlines. This can ensure you send all the paperwork requirements on time. Having a visual calendar can help remind you of key important dates. This large 6-month dry eraser calendar available on Amazon may be helpful. Or simply using Google calendar can work too.

Apply to FAFSA

  1. Apply to FAFSA early. The application is available after October 1st. You want to apply to FAFSA as soon as possible to increase the chances of a better financial aid package. Applying early can help you meet the federal, state, and school deadlines.
  2. Review the information on FAFSA. Accurate information is essential. If your situation changes, update your FAFSA to reflect the change.
  3. Ask colleges about additional applications. You might need to complete another application for school-specific financial aid.
  4. Ask about first-come-first-served financial aid. Some schools offer more aid to students who choose to accept admissions early.
  5. Research your state’s financial aid program. If you live and plan to attend a state school, explore your state’s program for scholarships, grants, and in-state loan programs.
  6. Follow-up on your financial aid offer. Make note of it on your calendar. Reach out to the college if you have not heard from them before or on that date.
  7. Negotiate. Your financial aid awarded letter isn’t the end all be all. Especially with changes in how college education is being delivered due to COVID-19, you may have an opportunity to negotiate lower tuition.

Search for Scholarships

  1. Apply for scholarships. Search your college’s website or through other sources. Get as much money from outside sources by completing as many scholarship applications. You can find scholarship opportunities in our marketplace.
  2. Speak with your high school counselor. Ask about scholarships offered to graduates that can help with paying for college. Many high schools have scholarships offered by past graduates.
  3. Talk to your parents. Find out about scholarships offered by your parents or legal guardian’s employer. Look at scholarships offered by credit unions, labor unions, and community organizations.

Learn more about finding ways to find scholarships.

Consider Loans

With your financial aid package, you’ll receive federal student loans. These loans can help pay for your college tuition and payments are deferred. Additionally, consider private student loans. Find the best private loans to help you cover the cost of attending.

Decrease the cost of attending college

College can be one of the most expensive purchases (or investment) you’ll make in your lifetime. There are a few ways to lower the cost of attending college. Consider the following:

Attend a community college for the first two years

Take all the necessary prerequisites at the local community college. In fact, many community colleges have agreements with state universities that help you transition as a junior to a 4-year university.

Compare housing options

Determine if living on campus, off-campus, or at home will save you money. It might sound tempting to live on campus but the cost to do so may be more than you can afford.

Use your plans and student discounts

If you have a meal plan, use it, or lose it. Keep yourself from spending on food outside of your meal plan and learn about the food establishments that offer discounts to students.

Buy used textbooks or rent

Don’t spend money on new textbooks and save by buying used or renting them online. Amazon or Chegg is a great resource.

Graduate on time

If you’re changing majors or flunking out of classes, you’ll end up staying in college longer which will cost you more. Take the classes you enjoy and need to get good grades and graduate on time.

Skip the car

Use public transportation or get a bike to get you to where you need to be. You’ll save money on parking, fees, gas, and frustration.

What else can you do to pay for college?

Consider a work-study program offered by your school. These programs help you earn money to offset the costs.

Work part-time with a company that offers tuition benefits. Many companies offer tuition assistance to employees.

Jason Vitug

Jason Vitug is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and founder of and His purpose to help others live their best lives through experiential and purposeful living. Jason is also a certified yoga teacher and breathwork specialist and has traveled to over 40 countries.

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