Affording to be a College Parent: Paying for College

When I tell people I’m in college and a parent, the first thing I hear is how tired I must be (I am), what hard work it must be (it is), and how they wish that they could be doing what I’m doing, but they can’t afford it. I don’t want to claim that college is a possibility for everyone, because I know that I’m fairly privileged when it comes to getting through college, but I do think that it is closer in grasp financially than most realize. If you are old enough to be an independent, and/or you have a dependent, you are probably able to get the loans necessary to go to college. My goal is to arm you with the knowledge necessary to get the funds to go to college. I’m not saying that I know everything about paying for college, but I do claim to have a little know-how in this department.

College takes drive and money. So I’m hoping to tell you how to get the money, so that all you have to do is find the drive to finish. There will be three segments to this post, and I will have a few freebies along the way. If you’re serious about going to college, follow along, like, comment, and pass on the information to others you know who claim they want to go to college, but can’t find the funds. Then fill out your FAFSA, put in some applications, and start calling some financial aid offices to figure out exactly how to make your dreams of higher education come true!

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  1. Community College is a fraction of the price of a four-year University, so why not knock out general education (gen. ed.) requirements for a fraction of the cost? There are a couple ways that you can “do” Community College: go full-time and transfer, take a couple classes while you work full-time then transfer, or take summer classes and maybe a class in the evening during the school year to knock out those requirements while focusing on your major at your four-year University.
    I took some classes at my local Community College while waiting to be old enough to claim independent on the FAFSA, and I still take a gen. ed. every summer there to transfer over. I have to pay for those classes out of pocket, but it’ll save me in loan repayment later down the line, so I think that it’s worth the extra hurt on my bank account in the summer time.
  2. Grants and scholarships are a lifesaver when it comes to cutting down the amount of loans you have to take out. You can apply for them at any time, so keep working on scholarship applications throughout the year. I use scholarships.com and niche.com to look and apply for scholarships. I also work my butt off to get at least a 3.0 because, at least at my University, that puts me on the Deans List, which allocates about $500 extra in grant money automatically. It’s a great incentive to focus on getting the best grades possible, when possible.
  3. Work study is something that the FAFSA will ask you if you’re interested in when filling out the annual form. The Federal Student Aid website defines a work study as “…provid[ing] part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need , allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses”. There are jobs on and off campus and an emphasis on finding students employment related to their major.
    I’ve expressed interest in work-study every year, but haven’t had an opportunity to take advantage of the program yet. However, if you’re someone who really needs a work-study to get through college (I’ve been able to get by without it), then you may want to call the Registrar or Financial Aid office at your University to express a need, and see if that helps.
  4. Picking an affordable University makes all of the difference in your success and longevity in school. There may be fewer amenities at a lower costing school, but the quality of education is what you’re really going for. You want to make sure that you’re choosing the school based on graduation rates, accreditation and the rate that people get jobs post-grad rather than their sports division or if they have a rock wall.
    My partner started off at the school of his dreams, the University of Kansas (KU), and had to transfer after a year because it simply cost too much money. He spent more time and cash than he needed to because he had to transfer, and the costs caused a huge strain on his family. He ended up graduating from the University of Central Missouri (UCM—where I go coincidentally), with a much lighter bill than he was looking at while going to a D1 school.
  5. Daycare being offered on campus has been my one key to success. You’re going to want to see if your University offers daycare, how much it costs, how they expect you to pay and if they offer any programs or special discounts for underprivileged families. My University offers daycare that is facilitated by students on campus who are in child development fields (so you know they love kids) and takes the cost of daycare right out of my financial aid, so I don’t have to worry about paying every month for daycare. It’s wonderful!
    The daycare is focused on education, so PD is flourishing educationally while I also work on getting my education. We’ve looked at other programs like Kinder Care or Montessori, and it simply doesn’t compare to the education that he’s getting for the cost of the program. He’s also within walking distance, so I can focus on doing my work, and not have to worry too much about cutting my study time short to go pick him up. If there’s one amenity that I say makes a difference to a college parent, it’s the University offering daycare services.

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I hope you’ve found this useful in starting your search. Along with this post, you’ll have access to a totally free excel spreadsheet to start your college search, keep track of your scholarship application and price compare considering what you’ve been awarded. Hopefully, you find it useful in your search for the right college and finding scholarships.

Are you already in college, or just now starting your search to enroll? Are there any useful tools that you use to help pay for college? Make sure to comment below if I’ve missed anything!

Have a productive day,

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