Depending on your family’s financial situation, higher education might seem like a pretty unattainable goal. It’s incredibly disheartening to find your dream university and then, upon searching the facts and figures, see that the tuition is upwards of $40,000 or more per annum.
You might think that you’re limited to only state schools or community colleges, and it’s true that both of those are fantastic options. But if the school of your dreams seems out of your price range, don’t be afraid to apply! You might find that financing private education without taking out huge loans isn’t as impossible as it seems.
Many private schools have large endowments – money given to the school that often gets distributed in the form of private scholarships and aid. That money comes back to you in scholarships that are specific to the school, and often come in predetermined amounts based on academic, athletic, or other eligibility. But schools also look at your family’s financial eligibility (and many say that your family’s ability to pay is not a factor in their admissions decision) and grant aid based on that.
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State schools rarely have the same endowments, so while the sticker price might be lower, you might receive little or no scholarship and grant money. Private schools have higher sticker prices, but with the amount of aid, there’s a chance you’ll be paying less than you would for a state education.
Of course, the federal government also provides aid to students – FAFSA and CSS are programs designed to help students pay for college, and most schools require that you fill them out in order to determine your financial package. Once the registration period for FAFSA is open, it’s important to do that as soon as possible in order to ensure you get the money you need. Often, the government provides student loans that are easier to pay back than loans from a private financial firm.
The financial package that the school sends you may not be the final word, however. Call the school’s financial aid department and ask about appealing your financial package – often, that can provide you with enough money to make the school feasible, or at least comparable to a state education. If that’s still not enough, appeal again. Many schools do have a limit on how many times they’ll allow you to appeal, but even if they only grant you another thousand dollars, that might tip the scales in your favor financially.
Lastly, look into private scholarships! The key is applying to anything and everything, so long as you qualify. Fastweb.com is an excellent door to funding college. Although many scholarships seem like small amounts that won’t make much of a difference, when it comes to funding college, it truly is a matter of finding the right puzzle pieces. You’ll find that as you narrow your choices and decide which school is right for you, even sums as small as $1,000 can make the difference between taking out a loan and footing the bill out of pocket; or getting the experience of living in a dorm or having to commute.
Applying to schools that appear to be out of your price range might seem like a waste of time and money, but if you qualify financially, you’ll find that many schools will foot more than half the bill or provide you with free housing (or a similar deal). Of course, even with the aid you get, your dream school might still not be financially feasible. The important thing is that you apply and see what kind of aid you get – you never know what you’ll end up with.