A Reader asks How to Pay for College With No Money and without a Trust Fund.
Question: My daughter is a senior in high school and is preparing to head off to college. We have no money saved for her college expenses and feel like loans are the only option we have. What should we do?
MoneySmartFamily: You have more options than you realize.
1. Get Government Grants
Fill out a FAFSA application – it’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – StudentAid.ed.gov
Do this even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any student aid. FAFSA weighs many different aspects of your finances. They look at your income, your child’s income, the number of kids in college, and parents’ and student’s savings.
You’ll need to get a PIN number so you can electronically sign your FAFSA. You should allow a few days for processing before you can start.
Other things you’ll need include:
– Your income tax return
– Bank Balances
– Investment information
– Your daughter’s bank balances
– Your daughter’s income tax return.
Allow a couple of days (at 2 or 3 hours per day) to complete the process.
Related Article: How to Get Maximum FAFSA and Pell Grant Money
2. Find Scholarships That She Can Win
Visit the websites of the colleges or universities your daughter has applied to. Search the financial aid pages to uncover the scholarships that they offer. You’ll be amazed at the number of options.
Or, talk with someone in the financial aid offices. Be prepared for them to offer you lots of loans. Getting you to take out loans quickens the enrollment process.
Whereas, applying for private- and school-sponsored scholarships takes much longer. You have to be determined and persistent to get college answers.
Search the Top Scholarship Websites
Encourage your daughter up an account at the following websites:
These sites are a clearinghouse of thousands of scholarships.
She’ll fill out a detailed profile and get matched with scholarships and contests.
There is no charge for these websites’ services. But, most of them do promote magazines and other college-related services.
Avoid the ads and get to the scholarship lists. It’s a numbers game, the more applications she fills out, the better her chance to make some dough.
Slower Offline Searches – But More Money
If you want to take a different approach, look for grants and scholarships that are harder to find. We wrote a lot about the big purple book, “Scholarship and Grants for Individuals.”
This book is the largest resource of old foundations that give money away. Many of these trusts don’t have websites. What they do have is a trustee who carries out the wishes of the person who established the trust.
This money may be harder to find, but it’s just as green and there is far less competition for it.
3. Learn from A Scholarship Winner
We met Jocelyn Pearson at a blogger conference and loved her story. When she was preparing for and attending college she applied for dozens of scholarships. She earned more than $100,000 in scholarship money and graduated from a prestigious private business school.
She graduated debt-free and started college with no money.
Jocelyn helps families learn to harvest scholarships with her website TheScholarshipSystem.com.
Learn about her system and how you can get involved with earning free money for college.
4. No Money? Research & Read!
Or read Kristina Ellis story of scholarship winnings
– Confessions of a Scholarship Winner
All of these books will empower your daughter with answers to apply for and win scholarships.
5. Start at Community College if you have No Money
Encourage your daughter to get her core curriculum at a community college. Class sizes are smaller and the cost per credit hour is almost half that of a university.
Most classes are usually taught by professors, not teachers assistants.
6. Understand the burden of student loan debt
Saddling a young student with $20,000 to $40,000 worth of debt is a disaster waiting to happen. This is especially true if he or she is planning on a lower-paying career.
Occupations such as teaching, social work or the arts have limited earning potential. And the prospect of paying back loans on a lower income can be crushing.
Most students don’t understand the long-term cost of borrowing a large amount of money.
And what happens if these students marry someone who has similar amounts of student debt? This becomes a recipe for stress, financial hardship, and sometimes divorce.
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7. Step Back and Protect Yourself
Help your daughter think carefully, spend wisely and count the cost. Help her get through school, a little slower, but debt-free.
Even if she has to work her way through college each semester, she will learn powerful life lessons. Understanding perseverance, planning and the real cost of education are invaluable. Plus, she’ll take her classes more seriously and truly appreciate her education.
But, if you have a daughter who feels compelled to do what all her friends are doing, just step back. Tell her you will not co-sign for her to take out student loans. The decision is hers to make
It’s agonizing to watch our children make decisions that will ultimately hurt them. We must allow them to experience the consequences of choices, without trying to rescue them. Otherwise, we will begin a cycle of crises and bailouts that won’t end well.
Read more Radical, Out of the Box, Money-Saving College Ideas in this blog series
- 6 Ways High Schoolers can Crush College Costs
- Student Loan Forgiveness Programs: How to get loans discharged legally
- Is There Gold at the End of the Scholarship Rainbow? Hack!
- How to Maximize FAFSA and Pell Grant Money!
- 10 Out of the Box Ideas for Big Time College Savings
- How to Eliminate College Debt
- How one kid got a college degree in 22 months for $3100 (you could too)
Be sure to read the comments at the bottom of this page – you’ll be amazed at these families and their college savings!