It’s summer 2017, college is starting in the fall, and you’re still not sure how you’re going to pay for it.
With the cost of college creeping up year after year, you’re not alone. Millions of students across the country are hoping to reduce their reliance on federal and private loans (and the debt that comes with them) and find alternative funding sources for their educations.
Here are a few tips for firming up your financial footing before embarking on your college career.
1. Search for Last-Minute Scholarships
Scholarships are literally free money for college. There may be a few strings attached—keeping up your grades, studying a certain subject—but you’ll never have to pay back a scholarship.
Unfortunately, most scholarships administered by colleges dry up by the time summer rolls around. You’ll know from your financial aid award letter how much scholarship money you nabbed.
However, scholarship money from outside organizations may still be available, either for this coming semester or a future one. Scholarships are available from businesses, non-profit organizations, towns and cities, religious groups—and the list goes on. You just have to know where to look.
One good place to start your summer scholarship search is with USA Today’s list of the 10 best sites to search for scholarships. If you live in Indiana, you might also want to check out our own list of the five best scholarships for high achievers in Indiana.
U.S. News and World Report also offers a list of late-deadline scholarships for procrastinators like you.
2. Get a Job
Your parents could be right after all: maybe you need a job this summer. As tempting as it may sound to spend your final summer before college relaxing and mentally preparing yourself for the academic challenge ahead, finding a job could relieve more stress down the road.
Your summer earnings probably won’t take a huge bite out of your tuition, but they’ll help defray some of the non-tuition costs of college: books, entertainment, dorm furnishing, and so on. Plus, you add valuable experience to your résumé, laying the groundwork for a better summer job (and maybe even a part-time job at school) in the years to come.
3. Spend Less
Trimming back your summer spending will also help you with pocket money once the semester starts. The cost of summer parties, trips to the beach, and camping excursions can start to pile up. Play it low-key and close-to-home for a low-cost summer.
You might even want to set up a budget for yourself. With all the mobile apps available now for this purpose, budgeting is a lot less time-consuming and complicated than it used to be.
Tip: get to know your local library’s free movie, music, and video game resources for a whole season of free entertainment.
4. Ask About a Payment Plan
Many colleges (including IPFW) offer payment plans to help students spread the cost of tuition across installments. This reduces the financial shock of paying in one large lump.
Most payment plans require an application, however, so check out the payment options your school offers now and get your application in right away.
5. Look at Other Schools
If, after seeing your financial aid award, you truly don’t think you can afford the colleges you applied to, it’s not too late to find another school.
- Schools with rolling admissions continue to accept applicants until they reach their enrollment caps. That means many of them take applications well into the summer. You may have missed your opportunity for scholarship funding from a rolling admissions school, but you may be able to find one with a much lower price tag than your current options. For example, some state schools offer in-state tuition to certain out-of-state residents. Here is a list of five colleges in Indiana with rolling admissions.
- Schools with traditional admissions sometimes have openings even after their official deadlines. If you’re interested in a particular school, call the admissions department and ask if you can still apply.
- Community colleges accept new students up until the semester begins. For price, it’s hard to beat community colleges. And after you’ve saved a little money, you can transfer to a four-year school.
Learn About Other Ways to Pay for College
For other tips on paying for college, including information on scholarships, federal grants, and loans, click below for one of our financial aid quick guides.