College Financing Tips

Check out these college financing tips to pay for your college education. There are some unexpected options, so enjoy the read!

Last updated on July 17, 2024 by College Financial Aid Advice.

Princeton University USA

Princeton University

What They Don't Tell You about Financial Aid

College Financing Tips

(Natalie, Colorado)

Upon becoming a high school senior I began preparation for college and, like most students, found it overwhelming. As a student who did not have much out of pocket cash (more like any out of pocket cash) to put toward college, financial aid was a must. Mentors, teachers and college representatives provided me with tips and advice on applying for scholarships, utilizing the web for resources such as FastWeb, helped me become a member of the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and brought me through the basic motions of financial aid. However, as a current student at the University of Denver I can say with confidence there are a ton of financial aid tricks that only a student can speak to.

First and foremost, I stress the importance of the aid I listed above. This is the ground work for any future aid and beginning with a high school scholarship resource, completing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and obtaining good grades and a stunning GPA are a strong basis for being granted aid in the future. That being said, here’s the stuff they don’t tell you!

When applying for scholarships, be open. Apply for a variety of scholarships and don’t get too hung up on being one specific type of person based on the qualifications. This is not to say that you should ignore the guidelines scholarship committees set out, but sometimes it’s worth it to fill out an application that you may think is outside of your usual comfort zone. I was granted scholarships from sororities and religious groups that I never would have thought to consider. It never hurts to apply!

Along these same lines, it’s never too late to apply. This certainly does not mean submitting scholarships after the set deadline but rather that it’s okay and extremely beneficial to continue your pursuit of scholarships through graduation and even into the summer. In fact, this is often the point in time that students stop pursuing scholarships and in my experience, this gives those that continue a better chance at summer scholarships due to the decreased number of applicants. Start scholarships as early as junior year and continue them through your summer after senior year. This will be a lot of work and commitment but well worth it. At the same time, if your high school offers college courses for free (as my high school did) or at a reduced price, take advantage of them. I was able to complete a portion of my prerequisites this way for free in high school and in the end, taking the courses saved me thousands of dollars that I would have spent at my university.

The most intimidating aspect financial aid is often the college essays. While applying for scholarships I learned a lot from examining the essays from scholarships that I did not receive.
Some of the best advice I can give is to be yourself and no one else in the essays and personal statements you write. Often times the questions can feel leading and make you feel you need to answer a certain way but in reality there is no correct answer, no concrete response that the committee or school is looking for in most cases. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself not only in an academic sense but in a personal (not too personal!) sense as well and don’t be afraid to add humor! Always write in a professional, grammatically correct manner but remember that more often than not creativity is welcome.

My final piece of advice on writing your essays, and maybe the most important, is to not allow them to be edited so much that who you are becomes diluted. Almost all of my essays that were not accepted were those that I allowed multiple teachers and mentors to edit, chop and remix. Reviewing your essays with a mentor, counselor or teacher is wise but make sure you’re still the one that comes out in your writing.

Encompassing all types of aid is also important. Learn how to navigate your way through federal, state and private grants and scholarships, university specific scholarships and on campus jobs and/or work study. I am a first year student at the University of Denver and when I was unable to obtain a full ride scholarship such as the Daniels Fund Scholarship, I continued my financial aid search in order to try and obtain what Daniels Scholars had been given. Through these tips I have provided and my on campus job as a cashier, I was able to fund my entire year and avoid taking out student loans. I still have a ways to go and will need to continue my financial aid hunt each year but I’m confident that it can be done. In keeping up with my grades and utilizing my aid to the fullest I was made a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. For the aid that you are granted, make it count and realize both that you are worth it and that someone else believes in you and your academic ability. Good luck and thanks for considering my college financing tips!

What do you mean she has too much scholarship money!

"What do you mean she has too much scholarship money!" written by Tandeka

In April before entering her first year of college, this is essentially what my daughter’s Financial Aid Award Letter said when the school of her choice took away $10,000 of a school awarded merit-based scholarship (renewable each year for 4 years) that she had earned through competing with other entering scholars.  In addition, the award letter had a line item for student loans. Needless to say, I was “hot.”  After all, this decrease was the equivalent of room and board for a whole year.

The reason for decreasing her award was because she had received a total amount of $10,000 in outside, nonschool related, scholarship monies that was over and above the total estimated cost of her education.  According to her Financial Aid Award letter, the total estimated cost of her education was $41,150, based on a living on campus housing status and a full-time student academic status.  Well, my daughter (and I) had worked too hard since elementary school, to have scholarship money that she had earned, so easily taken away from her.

When it came to scholarships, she started researching scholarship opportunities 2 years before her senior year in high school.  It had been her dream to be able to completely pay for school through working hard to apply for and to win scholarships.  In lieu of a “paying job,” she spent greater than 10 hours per week researching and applying for an average of 4 scholarships per month.

As a result of her hard work, academic achievement, perseverance, and leadership throughout high school, and indeed as a result of her commitment to excellence that had to have begun even before high school, she was awarded scholarship amounts that exceeded her total estimated cost of education. The message of her hard work and her commitment to excellence is a part of the message that I conveyed in a personal phone call and letter to appeal to the Director of Financial Aid to not reduce the amount of her merit-based scholarship based on what appears to be an excess of outside scholarship money.

In my letter to the Financial Aid Director, I also pointed out the fact that most of my daughter’s scholarships were “one-time” awards to be issued during the first year of college.   This meant that she would have to take out loans to cover the remaining cost of education for subsequent years in college, especially since tuition at that school increased automatically by no less than 5% each year.   I also mentioned that the “total estimated cost of her education” did not include things like, money for play tickets that she may have to have in order to write a paper on “How Costumes Influence a Live Audience” in a theater class, nor pizza when she misses the cafeteria hours because she had to attend a city council meeting for her politics class project, nor that summer service trip abroad that has to be fully funded by the student.

The Director must have sensed the desperation in my voice.  He said that the only option was for outside scholarship awarders to hold the money until her outside scholarship monies and her school related funds did not exceed the total estimated cost of her education for that school year.  I then wrote to all 9 of her outside awarders and each one of them said that due to their internal fiscal policies and procedures, they had to disburse the funds by December 31st.

I knew then that I had to come up with a reasonable option to present to the Director of Financial Aid.  I told him the results of my contact with her outside awarders and I asked him if the school could hold all of her extra award money in a special account with her name on it to be disbursed to her as she needed it in subsequent years.  Thankfully, he said that he would keep the money in an interest bearing account with her name on it.  Of course, the school would receive the interest money.  But, that was okay, since she did not earn that part.  I just wanted her to be able to keep what she had earned.

Upon graduation, she was able to live on campus all four years, she did not have to take out any student loans and she was able to experience an enriching summer study abroad service project.  Additionally, during her time at school I requested and received a transcript summary of her financial account that showed when outside scholarship monies were being transferred from the special account to future semesters. So, no matter what the financial aid award letter says, if it is from the school of your child’s choice and you think it could be better, do something about it.

The Job: That Makes a Difference

(Laura, Arizona)

Last week, I was at a job interview. I like everyone else that reached the interview portion of the process, I have the required degree for the position. Interviews are about your experience, your skills and your abilities as a team-member and a leader. Thanks to AmeriCorps, I was able to say to the interviewing panel.

I worked with a multi-generational and multi-cultural team to successfully build a decent house for a decent family in my community. I also, worked in one of the top museums in the world in a variety of positions where I learned the depth and breadth of nonprofit management in a real-world service environment. I feel I have the skills, experience and leadership qualities to lead this department successfully.

A degree is simply, not enough. The riddle college student face is, ‘You can’t get the job without experience and you can’t get experience without the job.’ Employers what to see that you are able to manage projects from beginning to end, able to face the challenges of the ‘real-world’ on a budget, and able to work as a member of team to make the right judgment on a time-schedule. Organizations want to hire a leader.

How can you get the experience you need while you are in college?

How can you get this experience while earning college credits?

How can you get this experience will earning a generous scholarship?

How can you build the professional network and get the professional references you need while you are in college?

Answer: AmeriCorps: Make A Difference, Get Things Done, Earn Money for College. This is one of the best college financing tips.

AmeriCorps is a United States government program dedicated to serving communities with disaster services, economic opportunity services, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures programs and services to assist military families. AmeriCorps provides students with the opportunities to gain the experience they need while they serve their nation and community in a meaningful way.

The monetary benefits of AmeriCorps are generous. It is the non-monetary benefits that make the program life-changing. An AmeriCorps member gains real-world experience, becomes a member of a team, overcomes challenges, connects to their community and learns the value of service. As an AmeriCorps member, I gained real job skills and experiences that helped me get accepted into graduate school and assisted me in getting my dream job.

Give a Year and Change the World

College Financing Tips

(Frank, Massachusetts)

Give a Year, Change the World (and save money too!) National service is the best way to pay for college. AmeriCorps programs like City Year or Playworks, allow young adults, fresh out of high school in many cases to serve a year and receive a Segal’s Education Award amounting to $7,395. Many universities will even match your Segal’s Education Award providing an equal amount to put towards your education! In one year you could pay for more than $14,790 in education costs. Not only are you given a grant to reward you for your service, but you are also given a living stipend during that time and to pay for your expenses.

Paying for college can, in many cases, become significantly easier after serving a year with an AmeriCorps program. Coming right out of high school and devoting your time to a great cause shows college admissions departments that you are hardworking and dedicated. College graduates who participate in an AmeriCorps program can also use their awards to pay existing student loan debt. Likely, you will become eligible for many other scholarships that can amount to a free ride! Nothing beats free, especially when the cost of education is so intangible for many people.

City Year, for example, partners with many universities throughout the country who offer City Year Corps Members anywhere from 25%-100% tuition costs, because of their service and dedication to the community. The profound experience that one will receive from their AmeriCorps experience will also help foster a maturity that will promote success academically and as leaders in college.

With such success one will receive attention from faculty, staff, and community members that provide further opportunities for growth. AmeriCorps is a life changing experience and offers opportunities for all everyone’s interest. It seems like an obvious choice when preparing for college, yet many Americans do not serve.

More College Financing Tips

Thanks to our readers for sharing their college financing tips. Check out the links below for more ideas too finance college.

College Financing

Money Tips for College Students

College Admissions Help

Scholarship Money for College

College Loans for Students

Student Jobs

Home College Financing College Financing Tips


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