Financing Your College Education

By: Susanna Rasmussen

Through all of the ups and downs of applying to college there is one truth you should always remember:

if you want to go to college you will REGARDLESS OF FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCE.

Financing your college education can be the most stressful step in the process, however a little preparation and research make all the difference. The money is out there—you just need to know where to look.

Scholarships are a great place to begin. The term “scholarship" does not only apply to aid granted to talented athletes at division I schools (though if you are a varsity athlete this could be an option and your coach is a great resource). In fact, there are innumerable scholarships and scholarship sources out there and you can start looking at any time.

Here are some suggestions for places to start in your quest of financing your college education;

First, look in your community. What activities are you involved in? Do you volunteer with children at a non-profit organization? Are you active within your religious community? Are you an aspiring writer/doctor/researcher? People and organizations are constantly setting up scholarships for future students based on any number of criteria. Ask around your community and look on-line.

Also, your high school offers scholarships for achievement in the arts, sports, or academics or perhaps to a student of a specific ethnic background or some combination of these. Go to your school’s college office and ask for a list of scholarships offered by your school and the surrounding community.

Remember that the Internet is a great resource. You can never apply for too many scholarships because you have NOTHING to lose (only money to gain!) and remember that this is money that you will not have to pay back.

The next crucial step towards financing your education is to fill out your free application for federal student aid or FAFSA form. You will need to do this the winter before you plan to attend, so the colleges can assess your need and put together a financial aid package for you. It is recommended that you fill out the FAFSA online.

Make sure to be organized. For example, have your parents there with you because the form will require information regarding their income and taxes paid in the previous year. Also be ready to answer questions about your own earnings.

When your package arrives you will see that it is compiled of two main sections: Grants and loans. Federal grants will be given only to the students with the greatest financial need and does not have to be paid back. There are also loans in your FAFSA, which is money they will put up front for your education, but that you will have to pay back later with varying interest rates. There are options outside of your FAFSA depending on your specific circumstance and the school you plan to attend, (for example private loans) which should be researched by you, your school and your family. Though interest rates sound intimidating, remember that you are attending college to better your future and with that comes a higher income bracket. Remember to be realistic when negotiating a payment plan.

There can be many obstacles when facing your future education—but remember that financing your college education should never be an insurmountable one. Accept the challenge with an open, organized mind and you will find a way to comfortably finance for your future.

To learn more about financing your college education visit How To Pay Student Loans at

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