Paying for college by yourself is challenging when the financial aid system is set up to include hefty financial contributions from parents. If your parents won't or can't help you pay for college, you still have some options, though you may have to work harder in school and get creative in finding resources.
To get federal aid for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Even though you have to include your parents' income on the application, many students still qualify for partial or full tuition student loans. Bear in mind that if your parents aren't helping you pay for college, that likely means you have to begin making payments by yourself within six to 12 months after finishing school. In a January 2010 "Los Angeles Times" article, financial expert Liz Pulliam Weston described the outlandish amounts of debt many students take on as "toxic" because they're unlikely to see a quality return on their investment.
Ideally, your parents let you know early on that they won't be helping you pay for college. This communication gives you at least a fighting chance to start planning early for this reality. You can deliver newspapers or find ways to start saving money at an early age. Many high school students work to make "fun" money. With discipline and hard work, especially during summers off, you can save thousands of dollars to help pay for college.
If you have strong academic abilities or other talents, such as in sports, you could get some help from local, state or national organizations, or even from colleges themselves. Millions of dollars in scholarships are distributed for college students every year. As you finish up high school, apply for as many local scholarships as possible. As you look at colleges, you can usually find an overview of their scholarship opportunities on their websites. The earlier you start applying, the greater your potential to get money.
Visiting prospective schools early and talking with financial aid officers is a great way to learn about your options and the application process. Spending your first two years at a local community college is an option to save significantly on tuition. If your parents let you live at home, you can work while in school and pay for it that way. An April 2010 article in "The New York Times" noted that homeless, married or military students can potentially avoid including parent income on the FAFSA in some states.
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