College Student Financial Survival Guide

High school students preparing for college are finding that the cost of continuing their education continues to increase, making it difficult to pay for. Students nearing graduation are discovering there is more to worry about than SAT scores and final grades. More students are turning to creative ways to pay for college and there are multiple opportunities available. High school students should take the time to research all of the options available and prepare for college while still in school. Waiting until after graduation to prepare for college can cause a student to lose necessary time that would be better spent seeking college finances and preparing to meet deadlines.

The cost of education is on the rise, but high school students should keep in mind that every school is different. Tuition and boarding rates vary from one school to the next, so it is important for students to set goals, decide what degree they want, and then begin comparing different school programs. Students should have a good idea of how much they will need for college before applying to different programs. Start your search by comparing different schools and start with a general idea of how much your preferred school will cost.

Savings

Savings accounts are one of the top methods high school students use to pay for college. Students, parents, and grandparents often start saving for a child's college education while they are young. There are several ways to save for college including a savings account that earns interest, a 529-education plan, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and certificates of deposit. Speak with your family and bank to discuss your options, as it is never too late to start a savings account.

Many financial institutions will pay interest on your savings account that can help accrue savings for college. It is often best to compare different financial institutions and determine how much interest they pay. High interest accounts are the best choice and provide the greatest benefits. Make certain that savings accounts are FDIC insured to protect your finances.

Scholarships

From ninth grade to the senior year, high school students can begin setting goals and developing a college plan. One of the most beneficial ways to obtain college funding is through scholarships. High school students should research different scholarship programs and structure their extra-curricular activities around their educational goals. By working towards scholarships throughout high school, students increase their chances of approval.

Students can join school clubs, focus on their grades and test scores, and obtain work in fields related towards their educational goals. These factors will work together to help students qualify for scholarships. By qualifying for multiple scholarships, students can effectively address the issue of college tuition. High school students should research different scholarships based upon their hobbies, preferences, interests, and studies.



Work Study

The Federal Work Study program provides federal money to colleges and universities in exchange for students working part-time in their specified fields. High school students may join work study programs; however, these are not the same types of programs that are at the college level. A high school student may enter a work study program in order to experience their preferred career. College students may apply for the Federal Work Study program through their college or university, each sets its own rules that determine how the program operates.

Previously known as the college work-study program, the Federal Work Study program is abbreviated as (FWS). In order to qualify for a Federal Work Study program, a student must first apply for an FAFSA or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students may work through programs that are approved by the FWS program. These may include working at the college or university, nearby businesses related to the field of study, and non-profit organizations.



Grants

Grants, along with scholarships, are one of the most preferred ways high school students obtain money for college. Grants are in high-demand as the money is given freely and students do not have to worry about paying the money back. There are different ways to obtain grants and some high school students build relationships with local businesses and private organizations in order to obtain grants. There are grants provided through states, the federal government, different colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and businesses.

Some grants and scholarships may be obtained through a parent's job. One of the most popular federal grants is the Pell grant. This grant is used for low-income students and is always based on income. Students may find grants based upon the field they wish to study and should use a variety of research methods to find grants they may qualify for.



Private Loans

Often used as a last resort and when other options have been exhausted, private loans can help students get the money they need for school. Private student loans involve obtaining a loan from a bank that is used for college tuition. The loan is repaid with interest, yet can ensure that a student has the money he or she needs to pay for tuition. Each financial institution has their own rules and regulations regarding private loans.

It is a wise idea to compare loan terms between different financial institutions, as there will be fluctuations. The differences between interest rates and terms may be substantial so always carefully research and compare. Repayment methods and interest rates also vary, making it imperative to compare loans before choosing one. Many students use multiple methods for financing college. Make certain you understand the repayment terms and will be able to make payments as required.



Federal Loans

Federal loans are those provided through the United States federal government. These loans are not grants and the money must be repaid. Those who want to apply for federal student loans must begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. High school students should begin performing research, prepare for college through local work study programs, and assess their financial aid, grants, scholarships, and other loan options, long before they think about college.

Federal loans are based on income level, and are one of the top methods used to pay for college. As with private loans, federal loans have varying interest rates, however, they provide several benefits. Those who apply for federal student loans will only deal with the U.S. Department of Education. Determine beforehand how long you will have until your loan is due for repayment.