how to pay for college

Many college students live on shoestring budgets, but the unexpected can occur at any time and leave a student without enough financial aid to make it through the next semester’s tuition bills or afford a dorm room. Tuition for college can cost anywhere from $10,000 to more than $50,000 per year depending on the school.

Students may not have the foresight to prepare for every eventuality or account for every expense. If a student runs out of financial aid mid-semester, leaving school to find full-time work is not the only available solution. It’s possible to solve such a problem and have enough financial wiggle room to complete a degree, but it will require hard work.

Cut Expenses and Live Lean

The first step in recovering from financial issues in college is to cut down your week-to-week expenses as much as possible. Find clubs and events on campus that offer free food, or consider applying for a job at an on-campus dining facility or local restaurant. These jobs often provide free meals with every shift. Be especially cautious with your entertainment budget. Movies, concert tickets, or other entertainment purchases can add up fast. Instead, check out what’s happening on campus; it likely offers lots of fun and engaging events that can help you spend your free time without spending money.

Find Extra Work

If you already have a job while attending classes, ask your employer about reworking your schedule for more hours around your class times. This will be a difficult schedule, but eking out a few extra hours each paycheck or even breaking into overtime while attending school is feasible and can help you offset your financial strain. You can also try to find a second source of income such as a side job you can do whenever you have time. If you own a vehicle, Uber or Lyft driving could be a great source of steady extra income.

Consult Your School’s Financial Aid Department

Visit your financial aid office and ask them about restructuring your financial aid, repayment plan options, or any other available solutions that will help you stay in school. For example, if you are $5,000 short for next semester, the school may work out a plan for you to pay in installments, and you can make your payments with the income from your job. Ask if there are any grants for the upcoming semester.

Find Additional Financing

You may qualify for additional financing that you could have overlooked, such as a low-interest Perkins loan through your school, a PLUS loan through your parents, or qualifying for a grant or scholarship. If all these avenues are fruitless, only then should you consider taking out another private loan. Private loans typically entail the highest interest rates and it will be very expensive to pay it back.

Running out of financial aid during your college career can be a scary and challenging experience, but it is not hopeless. These tips can help guide you toward a solution that works for your situation. Be prepared to make some sacrifices, live leaner, and work harder to make ends meet until you finish your degree.

Additional Resources: