Affording your four years at IU: Tip #3

I graduated from college debt free thanks to my parents. They opened a 529 plan for me when I was just a little girl. Bonds were bought in preparation of my four years, checks were written specifically for the college fund etc. It was an important cause that my family members wanted to contribute to because not many of them were able to participate in higher education. 

Many of you now have had the privilege of viewing your first bursar bill, and now you're all beginning to wonder how you're going to pay for college. It's funny how a large number in a tiny box can give us the biggest reality check. 

Let's talk options, specifically ones that don't necessarily include LOANS. The "L" word can be a dangerous thing for college students. Loans aren't free money; they come back to haunt you about six months after you walk across that graduation stage. 

So what can you do? 

FAFSA.

You can apply for this every year. Google FAFSA and many have tried to debunk the myths about this excruciatingly tedious application. 

The truth is, many of you will qualify for some kind of aid and many of you will not. 

FAFSA claims there isn't a parental income maximum, but I'm here to tell you that my parents always made too much money to qualify for any financial assistance. I say apply once and go from there. 

College specific aid. 

Surprise, surprise there are unadvertised scholarships at IU. It never hurts to ask, so you might want to consider contacting the financial aid office and inquiring about any money that may be available to you. 

State aid. 

This is often based on need and achievements. Test scores, grades and extracurricular accolades can all play a part in getting financial assistance from the state. Look into it. 

Personal funding. 

This can range from saving to mom and dad to working a part-time job. Many students work their way through college. Even if you can't cover all your tuition, the lower the loan amount the better. Here's where you might want to put that high school grad money to good use. 

Scholarships. 

Apply, apply, apply. I would avoid applying to nationwide scholarships because it's kind of like trying to win the lottery. BUT there are a lot of local scholarships available to students. Seek out organizations in your community that you think may offer students financial aid. Scholarships aren't always broadcast to the public, so tap into organizations that you know are frugal. Those of you who volunteer often within your community, you've got a leg up.

The "L" word.

Loans are not your only option, but they are sometimes unavoidable. Here are some suggestions if you need to go that route.

  1. If you take a loan out, try and create some cash flow for the following semester/school year. This may help you avoid taking out another loan, or at the very least a lower amount. Try to manage your mountain of debt, it's easy to borrow money and keep partying on, but come graduation and an entry level salary, you'll wish you made smarter money choices. 
  2. The lower the interest rate the better. You want to pay as little to borrow the money as possible. 
  3. Get federal subsidized loans. The government (as long as you're in school) will pay the interest charges. 
  4. Plug the numbers into a student loan calculator so you keep in mind how long it might take to pay back. 

I'm not a loan expert, but there are plenty of people who are! DO YOUR RESEARCH and ask for advice. I personally really like Rachel Cruze, she's funny and blunt. 

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