College, no matter where you go, is a very expensive proposition. Other than buying a house or a car, for the vast majority of people, it's the most expensive thing they'll do in life. But don't get discouraged. There's help available. Almost all colleges and universities offer and accept financial aid to help pay for your education. More and more of them are adopting the policy of not turning away any qualified student because of financial need. In other words, if you're admitted on the basis of your academic aptitudes and skills, they'll see to it that you'll get the money you need to enroll. (Not all schools have this policy; check with a good college directory to see if your preferred schools do.)They'll craft a financial aid package that will ensure that you're not denied the education you deserve. Now, not all colleges and universities have this policy, but most strive very hard to see to it that students have the resources they need to pay for college. There's lots of aid available-from schools, foundations, and federal and state governments.
Three great resources for financial aid:
The vast majority of American college students avail themselves of some financial aid-at some schools it's almost 100% of the student body. There are scholarships which you can apply for, which don't have to be paid back. Another source of money that never needs paid back is the federal Pell Grant program. Depending on need, Pell Grants can be up to $4000 per school year. Then there are Stafford and Perkins loans, either directly from, or backed by, the federal government. These generally aren't paid back until after you graduate, so you don't have to worry about making loan payments while you're in school. All of these government programs require you to fill out a form in order to apply-the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You'll need to fill out and send in the FAFSA by the end of the June immediately before your senior year starts. Don't miss the cutoff! In fact, you should turn it in as early as possible, because funds do run out from certain programs, and they're first come, first served. Turn your FAFSA in near the deadline, and you run the real risk that either the government program you're counting on will run out of money, or the portion allotted to your chosen college will run out. Don't risk it. You can turn it in as early as January of the same year, and you should take care of that as soon as possible. You'll need your parents' tax returns, and their help, but don't let them put it off. Remind them of the urgency of beating the deadline. If you miss it, you may miss out on federal financial aid.
In addition to aid, you can help yourself by working while in college, either for the school or in the private sector. Many choose this route, or a combination of aid and employment. But however you pay for it, there's no reason lack of money should keep you from getting a college degree.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013