how to pay for college without parents

Investing in Yourself: How to Finance College Costs [Independently]

College can be a big, and sometimes intimidating, investment. On average in the United States, annual college tuition costs can range between $10,000 and $40,000 for four-year institutions. However, the investment is well worth it. It’s estimated that the average, lifetime ROI (return on investment) of a bachelor’s degree is close to 288%. And for a master’s degree, that ROI jumps to 433.5% over one’s lifetime. On top of this, college degree holders have low unemployment rates—meaning there is a great likelihood of obtaining a successful job.

If you understand the value of a college education, the question is now, how can you afford it? While there are ways to reduce postsecondary costs, figuring out how to pay for college on your own can be daunting. Right now, you may be turning to Google for tips on “how to pay for college without loans” and “how to pay for college without parental support.”

To help streamline the process for your future success, this guide offers fundamental tips on how to finance college self-sufficiently. We also provide valuable resources on financial aid opportunities across Connecticut.

How to Pay for College Independently

1. First, Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Submitting a FAFSA acknowledges your eligibility for federal grants, work-study opportunities, and student loans. There is no income cut-off to apply, and applicants should submit their FAFSA as soon as possible, as awards are typically given on a first-come-first-serve basis. The FAFSA opens on October 1 every year, and students should also be aware of the annual deadline listed on FAFSA’s official website.

2. Select a Financial-Aid-Friendly, Career-Focused School.

Focus on institutions with substantial financial aid packages. After reviewing your grant and scholarship awards, use a net-price calculator to determine out-of-pocket college costs.

Flexible postsecondary programs, like online and accelerated programs, save time and money. Consider an institution that offers flexible scheduling options, as well as one that supports graduates to start their professional careers, workforce ready. This will ensure you can complete your degree—and start earning—as soon as possible.

This is possible at Goodwin University through flexible and career-focused programs. Goodwin also has one of the lowest tuition costs for private nonprofit colleges in the state. In the fall of 2022, 85 percent of Goodwin undergraduate students received grants and scholarships.

3. Search High and Low for Learner Grants and Scholarships.

Financing your college education without parents or student loans means leaving no stone unturned. Prospective students should search for grants and scholarships early. These are financial awards that you do not need to pay back.

Whether you apply for grant and scholarship aid on behalf of academic reasons, merit-based requirements, or financial need, you must be determined and diligent about grant and scholarship searching. Check out some helpful tips here.

New scholarships and grants are created annually. They may be tailored to specific college years, backgrounds, ethnicities, interests, internships, locations, and majors. Attending community club events where scholarships are discussed and connecting with a guidance counselor can provide additional insight for potential leads. Preparing essays in advance and creating a spreadsheet for each grant and scholarship application can also help track each tuition assistance prospect.

Grants and scholarships enable learners to accomplish their career goals. At Goodwin University, 60 percent of undergraduate students received Pell Grants, and 3.3 million dollars in institutional scholarships were awarded in 2022 alone.

4. If You Have to Borrow, Consider These Student Loans.

Since student loans require repayment (and grants and scholarships do not), learners should be diligent about their contractual obligations to pay for college.

Federal loans, for example, typically do not require a credit check, offer lower interest rates than private loans, and allow admittance to income-driven repayment (IBR) plans and loan forgiveness programs, if applicable.

Listed below are student loan options from the best borrowing selections to the least favorable funding.

  • Federal Subsidized Loans

With Federal Subsidized Loans, interest does not accrue (interest is not added to the loan balance) if you aren’t making payments. Some subsidized loans may also be forgiven if students are employed in specific public service careers for a set timeframe.

  • Federal Unsubsidized Loans

Although interest accrues from the time the institution distributes the loan, if the applicant is actively attending school at least half-time, no interest on the federal unsubsidized loan accrues.

  • Federal Plus Loans

Dependent students, parents, and graduate professionals whose grants, loans, and scholarships do not cover the total cost of college expenses can apply for a Federal Plus Loan using their FSA ID. If their Federal Plus Loan application is denied, the student will automatically be eligible for $4,000 in Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Funds.

  • Private Loans

Private loans are available as a last resort to fill education funding gaps. Applicants will need to pass a credit check.

5. Earn Your Education While Employed.

Working while in school can lessen the financial burden for learners looking to cut college costs. Federal work-study programs provide part-time jobs for students adhering to Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements.

Earning additional money editing papers and providing tutoring lessons for peers can also be a beneficial boost in income. If students achieve a minimum grade point average at the end of a school term, obtaining tuition reimbursement from employers can equally minimize out-of-pocket costs.

6. Spend Less and Save More.

Decreasing living expenses during college can make a monumental difference when earning a degree. Student budgeting and seeking cheaper alternatives to meal plans and textbooks can help support academic goals. Learners should also lessen any memberships or subscriptions during their college years and keep their student ID close by for additional discounts.

Helpful Hint: If Connecticut residents start early and save for college or vocational schools by contributing to a CHET 529 Savings Plan, they could receive a state income tax deduction of up to $10,000. With no annual or minimum fee to open, CHET 529 Savings Plan participants can also access account performance details and customize strategies based on specific investment goals.

Additional higher education tax credits may also be available for those who qualify.


Investing in your education is empowering and essential. Through grants, scholarships, and additional student aid, financing college costs is feasible if you plan, prepare, and persistently put in the work to pursue your professional dreams.

Keep scrolling for national and Connecticut grants and scholarship opportunities!

Are you thinking about going back to school to earn your degree? Discover how Goodwin’s financial aid advisors can get you to your career goals! Or, keep reading for more financial resources and advice.

A Goodwin Guide for Financial Aid Resources and Higher Education Help

Federal Grants and Scholarships

State Specific: Connecticut Grants and Scholarships

Resources on Student Aid Scams