6 Ways I Paid for My Dream College

One of the biggest deterrents for people about going to college is the cost. At face value, $60,000 is a huge sum of money, and most high school students or recent grads barely make enough money to fill their gas tanks. So how are we expected to come up with all that money? Well, I know how I managed to afford tuition at Syracuse University for four years, but my path is certainly not the only one. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll feel more confident and secure about heading off to college.

  1. By applying for FAFSA, you are applying to receive federal aid. This comes in the form of both loans and grants. It also lets your college or university know that you might need help financing your education, and so oftentimes the school will also provide you with grants and loans of their own. Grants are gifts, and they’re amazing. Loans are exactly what they imply; if you accept a loan from a bank or other institution, you have to pay it back later on down the road. This isn’t a bad thing; many people graduate college with loans—so don’t let that scare you.
  2. The summer between high school and college, you should be working your butt off. Save up as much money as you possibly can to help pay for school. If your parents are helping you, that’s great—but try not to let the burden fall completely on their shoulders. Try to take some responsibility for your education and work, work, work! If you’re able, try to find a part-time job that fits in with your schedule during the school year as well. My parents didn’t help me pay for school, and after grants and loans were deducted from my monthly bills, I was able to pay the rest by working just 2-4 days each week at a local pizza shop.
  3. Monthly payments. Syracuse University gives you the option of paying your annual tuition bill upfront in one sum total, or of paying in monthly installments. I did the monthly payments, and this made my bills much more manageable.
  4. Like grants, scholarships are gifts. Apply to as many as you can and you’re bound to receive a few. Check in with your high school counselor about local scholarships, check online, and even check with the companies your parents work for. I applied for and received a scholarship offered by the company by mom worked for. This is a great option, because there won’t be hundreds of kids applying, thereby increasing your chances of getting it. And even as you enter your sophomore or junior year of college, you can still keep applying. Scholarships aren’t just for college freshman.
  5. Cut Back on Unnecessary Expenses. Basically, when you’re trying to afford something as expensive as tuition, you have to make financial sacrifices. This means buying less stuff than you normally might. Try skipping the professional manicures and haircuts, leaving your car at home when you go away to college, and making smart decisions about the things you’re buying. A little can go a long way.
  6. Apply to a variety of different schools, but be sure to included larger-sized schools on your list. SU was the largest school I applied to, and surprisingly, they offered me the most financial aid out of the other 4 schools I applied to. It makes sense, they’re bigger and have more money to spare on helping students.

Don’t let the fear of loans and costs stop you from chasing your dreams and going to college. When I got accepted into SU, I knew immediately that I would do whatever it took to make my dream of having a better future turn into a reality. Yes, I worked long hours and shed a few years over the stress of it all, but in the end it was worth it. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford college, and that’s okay. You’re not alone, and you can make it happen!

Author: Caleigh Gran

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