If you don't qualify for federal financial aid, you may be eligible for scholarships and grants, financial aid from your state or school, or private student loans. You can also try to work while in school to cover the costs.
Though most students qualify for federal financial aid, there are some cases where students won’t because of the school they are attending, their citizenship status, or something else.
Even if you don’t believe you are eligible for federal financial aid, you should still complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to make sure. Actually, all students should fill out the FAFSA every year regardless of what they think they’ll qualify for and if they have been rejected in the past.
If you know that you definitely aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, though, there are options to help you pay for college.
On this page:
- Scholarships & Grants
- Financial Aid from Your State or School
- Work While in School
- Private Student Loans
Search for Scholarships and Grants
There are countless scholarships and grants available for students of all kinds. Some are awarded based on financial need while others are given for merit in academics, athletics, community service, or something else.
Students can look for scholarships and grants offered by the school they’ll be attending or by non-profit and private organizations. There are also state-based scholarships and grants that may be available.
Best of all, this type of aid doesn’t have to be repaid like student loans.
Look for State or School Aid
As was touched on above, many colleges will offer their own financial aid packages, as do individual states. Students can contact a college financial aid counselor if they’d like to learn more about the options that may be available.
Many colleges award merit scholarships not only to incoming students but also to upperclassmen. Even if students don’t get this type of aid their freshman year, they should continue trying throughout their time in school.
Many academic departments at schools will have their own scholarships available as well.
Work Your Way Through College
While college is a full-time job in and of itself for most students, some people may opt to work their way through school. This may not fully cover the cost of education, but it can help.
Many students who don’t qualify for federal aid will work as a way to supplement what they need to borrow in private student loans.
A good option for college students is to find online work allowing for flexibility. For example, working as a freelance writer or an online tutor can work well with the schedule of college students.
Jobs that are going to provide more than the minimum wage such as waiting tables can be a good option for students as well.
For students who don’t qualify for federal financial aid who feel like even working wouldn’t be enough to make a dent in the cost of tuition, it may be better to explore lower-cost schools, such as in-state public universities.
Take Out Private Student Loans
Private student loans can be used to pay for college, but you should explore all other options first.
Private student loans can often be used to pay for the entire cost of your education, if necessary, or just to cover gaps left after federal student aid, scholarships, grants, and income earned while in school are all exhausted.
There are downsides to weigh with private student loans, however.
First, with private student loans, there aren’t as many flexible repayment options and hardship options such as income-driven repayment plans, student loan forgiveness, forbearance, and deferment. Many private lenders either don’t offer these options at all or they’re significantly more limited than with federal student loans.
Aside from less forgiving repayment, even some of the best private student loans may have interest rates that are higher than federal loans depending on how well you meet the eligibility requirements.
When applying for a private student loan, a cosigner is often necessary as most college students haven’t yet built a strong credit score. Cosigning a student loan is risky though as the cosigner is responsible if the primary borrower can’t repay the loan. Also, if the primary borrower misses a payment or defaults, the cosigner’s credit can be impacted.
If you don’t have a cosigner, there are some lenders who specialize in offering student loans to those without one.
First and foremost, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for federal financial aid, make sure you complete the FAFSA. If you don’t qualify for aid after doing that, or if it’s not enough, there are other options to consider.
Start with searching for scholarships and grants, and then if you still don’t have enough to cover the costs, you can consider options such as working during college or using private student loans.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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