how do i pay for college on my own

Top Six Tips to Pay for College on Your Own

If you’re worried about the educational expenses that come with earning your degree, or if you want to combat the “broke college student” stereotype, read below for tricks to best evaluate your educational finances so you can focus on what matters most: your future career.

  1. For starters, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA
  • Completing a FAFSA could allow you to receive federal grants, student loans, and work-study opportunities.
  • Be sure to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible! Awards given to applicants for most programs are on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • FAFSA applications typically take three hours to complete, and there is no income cut-off to apply.
  • The application opens on October 1 of each year, and students should be cognizant of the deadline to submit listed on FAFSA’s official website.
  • If you are a student whose guardian(s) claim you on their tax returns as a dependent, you will need your social security number (SSN), the SSN of your caretaker(s), information on their income, assets based on tax returns, W-2s, investments, and untaxed income.
    • Your guardian(s) are not legally required to pay for your college education. Submitting their financial information on your FAFSA is not a binding agreement for your guardians to pay for college. However, adding your guardian’s data will increase your chances of receiving financial aid assistance. Unfortunately, if your guardian’s financial information is absent for your application, this will impede your qualifications for financial aid.
  • If you are considered an independent student, you do not need your guardian’s information on your FAFSA.
  1. Second, select an affordable school
  • Keep an eye out for schools with generous merit and need-based financial aid packages! 
  • After receiving your financial aid package, use a net price calculator to determine out-of-pocket/borrowing costs after grants and scholarships.
  • If cost is a concern, it may be advantageous to consider a career-focused college that will help you join the workforce faster than a traditional university.
  • Did you know? Goodwin University has one of the lowest tuition costs for private nonprofit colleges in the state! 
  1. Search for grants and scholarships early
  • Grants and scholarships can be academic (good grades), merit-based (community service requirements), or need-based (financial assistance).
  • Treat scholarship searching like a job — work at it during summer breaks and weekends. Even write essays about personal experiences and career goals ahead of time to prepare. Undergraduate and graduate scholarship search engines can be found here!
  • Be sure to monitor grants and scholarship deadlines, submit all required documents, proofread your essays, and diligently keep track of each grant and scholarship application.
  • Apply and search for scholarships and grants every year. New scholarships and grants are created annually, and they don’t have to be paid back!
  • Some scholarships depend on your college year, while others offer awards based on participation in internships, senior projects, and student teaching.
  • Look for scholarships tailored to your background, ethnicity, interests, or location.
  • Some state grants even support specific majors in need of workers, such as education or nursing majors.
  • Local scholarship resources include CHESLA ScholarshipsGoodwin Foundation Scholarships, and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
  • General resources for federal grants and scholarships include the U.S. Department of EducationU.S. Department of Labor, FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid, and FTC’s Consumer Information on Scholarship Scams.
  • Helpful hint: Search for scholarships that award less than $1,000 — they are less competitive and can add up! 
  • Goodwin University financial aid facts: In the fall of 2019, 92% of Goodwin undergraduate students received financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships. The same year, 52% of undergraduate students received Pell Grants to help pay for college, and Goodwin University provided 4.9 million dollars in institutional scholarships to students overall.
  1. Seek out the best student loans for you
  • Student loans are loans that require repayment. Using a student loan calculator can help to determine the borrowing costs of your college education.
  • If you need to take out loans, it’s best to start with federal loans. Federal loans generally offer lower interest rates than private loans, do not require a credit check, and also give access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs, if needed.
  • Federal Subsidized Loans are ideal because they do not accrue interest (meaning, interest is not added to the loan balance) if you aren’t making payments. Subsidized loans may also be forgiven if you are employed in specific public service careers for an extended amount of time. However, it is essential to note that there is an exception for first-time borrowers of direct subsidized loans, which places a cap on the amount of time during which a student is eligible to receive subsidized loans and the length of time the interest will be backed.
  • With Federal Unsubsidized Loans, interest accrues from the time the school distributes the loan. If the student loan borrower does not pay the interest as it compiles, then the interest is added to the loan balance (also known as capitalized). If the student is actively attending school at least half-time, the federal unsubsidized loan interest amount accrued is zero.
  • Federal Plus Loans are for dependent students, parents, or graduate professionals whose grants, loans, and scholarship awards do not cover their remaining college costs. With a federal plus loan, an applicant can apply using their FAFSA ID and complete a preapproval form to check financial eligibility. If the loan is approved, an applicant can take out the loan to satisfy the remaining balance. If the federal plus loan is denied, the student will automatically be eligible for up to $4,000 of additional Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Funds. An applicant may also appeal a denial decision or reapply with an endorser.
  • Only take out private loans as a last resort to fill in the gaps. If you take out a private loan, you will first need to pass a credit check. Once that step is complete, you should find a lender with the lowest interest rate and flexible repayment plans.
  1. Work while in school  
  • Federal work-study provides part-time work for students who seek additional income to pay for higher education costs. Work-study students must adhere to Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to be eligible.
  • Students may also pick up side jobs — making money editing papers, tutoring peers, creating crafty gifts, or providing music lessons to other learners.
  • If a student works off-campus full-time while attending school, they might qualify for tuition reimbursement through their job. Tuition assistance programs typically reimburse employees at the end of a school term for achieving a minimum grade point average (GPA).
  1. Save, budget, and monitor your spending 
  • Student budgeting is essential to support your college experience. Consider lowering your living expenses — compare on-campus to off-campus housing, consider cutting the cost with roommates, and price out alternative meal plans.
  • Instead of buying new textbooks, buy used, rent books, or search for free versions online.
  • If you’re considered an independent student for financial aid purposes, you may also look into tax credits for college expenses through the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • Avoid contractual obligations like memberships and subscriptions while you’re in school.
  • Also, keep your student ID on you at all times for additional discounts.

Investing in yourself and earning a college education isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. If you’re motivated enough to graduate with your degree and as little student debt as possible, rest assured, with planning and perseverance, you have the power to make it happen.

Did you know that Goodwin University has our own department dedicated to helping students budget and prepare so that each student is fiscally responsible?
You can find more information on financial literacy here.

At Goodwin, you don’t need to break the bank to go back to school! Get the financial aid you need for college. Learn more now!