Next you need to figure out how to pay for all this. How far will your college savings account go? How much can you afford? How much will you need to supplement? Are you eligible for scholarships or grants or will you need education loans?
There are a large number of scams and many con artists out there who will promise you the moon to help you finance your education. The truth is, you can do anything a professional financial counselor can do and even more. A reputable counselor will tell you this upfront. If you can afford to pay someone to help you get money for school, why not use that money to help pay your tuition in the first place? You might find a seminar given by counselors helpful, but take all the information they give you and run straight to your computer to begin the search yourself.
Everyone has to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine financial aid eligibility. All schools will need this information as well as their scholarship and grant officers. You can complete this online at
After you have completed your FAFSA, you should explore a few other sites for general financial aid information to help you understand what is actually available and how to avoid the scam artists. Remember, you have to complete all the forms yourself. Your best friend in this process is going to be the financial aid officer at your school because he or she will decide what aid you will be awarded. Scams about moving funds and making your income or your family's look smaller are ploys that are well known to financial officers and using these ploys may adversely affect your aid. Other helpful sites:
Other resources you should check out include your school, your employer or your parents' employers, community service organizations and clubs in your hometown (especially any that you or your family members participate in), and churches and businesses in your community. Remember that the employer may require specific employment commitments in return for any monies you receive.
In addition to scholarships and grants, you can apply for low-interest educational loans. There are several types of these and you'll probably be required to complete a short online course from your school before you can complete the application. The purpose is to have you sign an acknowledgement that you understand that you have an obligation to repay these loans no matter what. In past years, after students graduated, they would use such tactics as declaring bankruptcy to avoid having to repay the loans. This is no longer possible and this course instructs you about options if repayment becomes a significant burden.
Your parents can also apply for low-interest student loans to assist in financing your education. They may also be obligated to complete the online course from your school.
The amount of the loans will be included in the award letter from your school's financial aid officer. If you feel you will need additional funds for costs beyond the officer's estimation, be sure to discuss the matter with the officer upon receipt of the award letter before signing it. The officer's job is to try to keep your obligations (especially loans) to a minimum, but he or she may make unrealistic estimates especially in the area of transportation to and from school and those additional lab, uniform, and equipment fees. Unexpected financial obligations can undermine your efforts and cause significant stress. Plan ahead!
Some schools also offer tuition payment plans that can minimize the need for aid if you have significant savings or income. Whatever you can afford to pay as you go will offer you savings in the long run. Be sure to explore all your options with your financial officer.