It might feel like it's too late to get any financial help when you're already in college. But with a little effort, you can save money and reduce the amount you'll owe in the long run. That will make your life easier when it comes to repaying your student loans. Check out these quick steps to make sure you're giving yourself the best start possible.
Saving early is the best way to reduce your long-term debt and student loans throughout college. Every little bit helps, so saving money from work, birthdays, gifts and other sources is still important. Why not ask your family to put money into your savings account to pay for college instead of an expensive present? Continuing to save and using that money to pay for part of your college experience - even if it's just books or furnishing your dorm room - will help you avoid additional future debt.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Just because you're in college doesn't mean you can't keep applying for scholarships and grants. In fact, many scholarships and grants are available based on financial need, merit, and other criteria even for students already attending school. Most are awarded on a deadline or first-come, first-served basis. That means, the earlier and more frequently you apply for these resources, the more likely you are to get them. While you won't get every scholarship you apply for, they all help and can really add up. Some great resources for scholarship and grant ideas are your college financial aid office and your local library. Ask for the "scholarship book."
Write at least one really good essay
If you don't already have a great essay, take the time to write one which will help you throughout your scholarship and grant application process. Most essays will focus around a common theme like "why I need this scholarship," "tell us about yourself," or "how will this scholarship help you accomplish your career goals." The point of essays is to give the applicant a chance to help the folks giving the scholarship get to know them. This is the applicant's best chance to set themselves apart from the other applicants.
Make sure to relate your answers to the questions instead of making a laundry list of accomplishments. Good things to mention may be if you're the first person in your family to go to college or you've overcome adversity. Try to think creatively and set yourself apart from the crowd with your answers. Always make sure to follow the guidelines of the scholarship, which shows your ability to reason and follow instruction. Try to tie your answers into the theme of the scholarship to prove that you're the best choice for the investment the company wants to make.
Writing one good essay can be a great starting point since you can always edit your response for other scholarships. Remember it's not plagiarism if you wrote it, so it's okay to copy and paste from other essays you have written, just make sure your material fits in the scholarship guidelines.
If you haven't filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for college, you need to do that now! The FAFSA is your gateway to federal student loans, the cheapest form of student loans for most borrowers. You must complete this form each year to receive and federal, state, or college money and some scholarships and grants require it as well. The FAFSA asks basic information regarding the borrower's income, dependency status, and savings to determine financial need. It is important to fill this form out as early as January 1st of the academic year you're applying for. That will make the most possible money available to you.
Ask for help
If you've already completed the basics and you're still having trouble paying for college, or worried that your savings won't be enough, visit your college financial aid office. Their job is to help students make ends meet during college so they can get through college and graduate with the least amount of debt. They want to see you succeed, so stop in or call the office if you run into issues.