Paying for College without Loans

Finding solutions to make college affordable, so you can avoid student debt.

Figuring out how to afford college without relying on student loans is essential. Roughly 62% of students who graduated in 2018 left school with student loans. The average amount of debt was a whopping $29,800. [1] Each year, the cost of both tuition and room and board rises. In fact, the cost of a higher education is 129% higher than it was 30 years ago.[2]

Paying for college – whether it’s for you or your children – can be a huge burden. So, it’s essential to start planning early to pay for as much as you can without student loans. But even if you’re starting late, there can still be solutions that can make college more affordable. Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how.

Tips on paying for college if you’re starting late

Most advice you see – even on this website – tells you that you need to start planning and finding solutions as early as possible if you want to avoid student debt. But that doesn’t mean that you’re completely stuck if you’re starting late. And don’t worry – you’re not alone! In fact, most people don’t start looking online for ways to make college affordable until April of each year. That’s just one month before students’ high school graduation and only a few months before the start of their freshman year.

Tip #1: FAFSA should be your biggest priority

For the 2018-2019 school year, you have until June 30, 2019 to submit your FAFSA form. [3]  If you are applying for financial aid for the 2019 fall semester, you must turn in your application by this date. If you miss the deadline, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aidyou’re your first semester.

Tip #2: Talk to your counselor to identify scholarships that are worth your time

Applying for scholarships takes time. It can also get extremely repetitive, since every scholarship usually requires an essay. Writing the same thing over and over gets old. So, if you’re starting late, you want to focus on the scholarships you have the highest chance of receiving.

Talk to your school guidance counselor, since they’ll likely be the best person to know you and know what scholarships exist. That way, you can focus on the scholarships that you’re most likely to get awarded.

Tip #3: Extra income may be key to avoiding more student debt

Many students take their lenders up on bigger loans because they need money disbursed to them directly. Student loans aren’t just used to pay for tuition or room and board if you stay in the dorm. You can get direct disbursements, which means the lender puts money directly into your checking account. You can use the funds to pay rent on an off-campus apartment, pay for food, or really pay for anything you want.

This may sound like free money when you’re in school. But you won’t be happy with the debt once you leave school. So, if you’re starting your plan to pay for college late, then one option you may want to consider will be to find a way to get some extra income while you’re attending school.

  1. Apply for a work study program
  2. Look into paid internships
  3. Consider part-time jobs
  4. Find freelance work within your desired career field

Tips on paying for college if you’re starting early

Tip #1: Parents should look into college savings accounts

Whether you decide to go with a 529 savings plan in your state or a Coverdell IRA, if you’re starting to think about paying for college years in advance, then savings plans are the way to go. The earlier you start a college savings plan, the more time your money has to grow. Since most savings plans work like mutual funds, the earnings compound. That means, starting early will give you a better return on the same contribution amount.

Tip #2: The student should concentrate on applying for scholarships

You can get scholarships years ahead of when you actually attend college. So, applying for scholarships is one of the best things you can do if you’re starting early as a student. This is also a good choice for starting early because applying for scholarships can be exhausting. You’ll usually need to write essays for each one, so if you’re doing them at the last minute, it can be overwhelming.

The earlier you start, the more you can spread out the effort. That will also make it easier to learn what different organizations may be looking for to award their scholarship. There’s nothing wrong with applying for the same scholarship more than once!

Tip #3: You can’t use FAFSA until you graduate

For parents and students who will be starting their senior year in the fall of this year, be aware that you can’t do anything with FAFSA now. The FAFSA form for the 2019-20 academic year will not be available until October 1, 2019. [4]   And even then, you can look at the form, but you won’t be able to apply. You must have a high school diploma or GED to register. [5]

Tip #4: You can’t get grants until you complete FAFSA

If you’re starting to work on paying for college early before you graduate, then you also can’t apply for grants. A completed FAFSA form is required for any grant application, so don’t worry about grants until you complete FAFSA.