(Family Features) When the acceptance letter arrives from a college or university, it’s cause for celebration. But it’s also time to do some serious number crunching and take steps to mitigate potential education-related debt.
The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) estimates that the average student leaves higher education with a diploma in hand, and a debt load of more than $26,0001.
Even families who have saved for postsecondary education for years find themselves looking at ways to manage expenses as the cost of tuition, books and room and board add up. Exploring both traditional and non-traditional sources of financial aid can help make those mounting expenses more manageable.
Schedule a meeting with financial aid. As soon as you have settled on which school you’ll attend, contact the financial aid office and request an appointment with an advisor. If you’re within a drivable distance, it’s a good idea to meet in person and develop a relationship with someone who can help you identify potential aid sources you might not have considered otherwise. Closer to home, do the same with your high school counselor, who can keep an eye open for scholarships that match your credentials.
Explore association scholarships. Many professional associations and member-based organizations offer competitive scholarship programs. Check with the major employers in your area, particularly any in your chosen field, to find out if they offer any scholarship or grants. You can also check with family members to determine what organizations they belong to and whether you are eligible for any funds. For example, Foresters(tm), an international financial services provider committed to family well-being, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship2, which awards up to 250 tuition scholarships worth up to $8,000 each for eligible members, their children and their grandchildren in the United States and Canada. Learn more about the scholarship opportunities awarded by Foresters at www.foresters.com.
File for federal aid. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), even if you don’t think your financial circumstances make you eligible for a grant. You may be surprised by what is available. In addition, research national grants such as Pell Grants that can help defray your expenses.
Secure a career-relevant job or internship. While classes, studying and enjoying a healthy social life are all important aspects of the college experience, gaining experience in your future career field is valuable too. Consult with your school’s career center or an advisor in your area of study to uncover paid internship opportunities that will help you develop your resume and bolster your bank account.
Making the most of potential resources to pay for your degree lets you keep your focus squarely on your studies so your next big cause for celebration can be your college diploma.