Charger Family Connection

Five Tips for Paying for College

The only thing harder than getting into college is paying for it. Here are five tips on earning a degree for less.

By Christina Couch

Image of a student and her family visiting campus
Creating a family calendar of application deadlines will help you both set realistic goals and stay on top of the mountain of paperwork.
Think Ahead

The earlier the research process begins, the bigger the payoff. As early as sophomore year, your student should begin collecting and organizing applications, recommendations, test scores, essays, and transcripts. Students should begin applying by junior year in order to take advantage of the countless scholarships geared toward younger students. Creating a family calendar of application deadlines will help you both set realistic goals and stay on top of the mountain of paperwork.

Think Federally

The most crucial step in the scholarship process is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Available online at the FAFSA website and in the myStudentAid app, the FAFSA is the only way to apply for grants, scholarships, and/or loans issued through the U.S. government. Get your forms in order now and mark October 1 on the calendar to get your hands on the nation’s biggest financial aid resource.

"The earlier the research process begins, the bigger the payoff."Christina Couch
Think Locally

College tuition could be no farther than your own community. Organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Jaycees, the American Legion, and Boosters chapters have scholarship funds set aside specifically for area high school seniors. Memorial scholarships honoring local residents are also a lucrative, but typically overlooked, resource. Since competition for local funds is significantly less than that for national awards, researching what’s offered just around the corner could pay off in a big way. Start by visiting your student’s high school guidance office to see what’s available, and then follow up by asking prospective colleges about their scholarship and financial aid packages.

Think Categorically

Your student may be eligible for certain scholarships by virtue of ethnic, religious, and professional affiliations. Books such as The Scholarship Handbook and Scholarships, Grants, and Prizes can help your student find scholarships from around the world that meet your financial requirements. To find out what kinds of funds your student qualifies for without leaving your home, create a profile through an online scholarship search engine and let the opportunities find you. Sites such as www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.org, www.scholarships.com, and www.cappex.com allow you to sift through thousands of career-, college-, and heritage-based scholarships to find what matches your interests, activities, and needs.

Think Corporately

Businesses such as Coca-Cola and Target offer financial aid to thousands of students each year. Big-name companies aren’t the only place to look: start by asking whether or not your or your spouse’s company offers scholarships to children of employees.

Christina Couch is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of all Ages. Her byline can be found on Yahoo! Finance and MSN.com, as well as in Time Out Chicago and Wired magazines.

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