Ask the Experts: What If I Can’t Afford College?

August 24, 2010 | posted by Jeff Sheely.

As part of our Ask the Experts series of posts, our friends over at the SkippingBreakfast.com College Readiness Blog sent us a problem that many families are dealing with these days: what to do when you can’t afford to pay for college. We asked our parenting expert Tia Peterson what advice she’d give to a student in this situation, and here’s her response…

  • Q: I’m a high school junior and I don’t know how I’m going to go to college. My parents don’t have the money. What should I do?
  • A: A lot of students are in your position. It’s wise to start thinking about paying for college early. Consider all possible sources of money for college: scholarships, grants, money earned from working, federal and private student loans, and gifts. Before you begin, you should read about financial aid for students.

    Scholarships
    are available everywhere and often go unused because students don’t apply for them. As a junior, you should make it a priority to apply for as many scholarships for which you are eligible. A good source for finding information on scholarships is FastWeb.com.

    Grants present great opportunities to pay for college, but they are less widely-available than scholarships. Still, you should apply for grants that you are eligible for, and you should talk to your guidance counselor at school about the Federal Pell Grant, which is a needs-based federal grant for students. You may be eligible for it. Private grants are also made available from non-profit opportunities and corporations.

    You have two summers left before college begins, and it might be a good idea to consider working full-time during those summers, saving all of your earnings and putting the money into an interest-bearing savings account.

    Federal and private student loans are also made available to students to use for college expenses. The types of loans and repayment terms are varied. For many students, loans make the difference between being able to go to college or not.

    Since you know you would like to go to college, put any money that you receive in gifts toward that. You should also tell your family members and people close to you that going to college is a dream of yours. You never know who may lend a hand to help.

Thanks Tia! If you have questions about student loans or the financial aid process for our next edition of “Ask the Experts”, please leave them in the comments or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

SkippingBreakfast.comToday’s question was provided by the student bloggers at Skipping Breakfast, a college readiness blog written primarily by students for students. Students will find stories, quizzes, tips and activities to help them get organized, set and reach goals, develop skills, find a dream career, and get into and pay for college when the time comes. If you’re a student, don’t wait until junior year of high school to prepare for college. Visit Skipping Breakfast for help getting started today.