There’s no denying that college tuition is high, and paying for college is often not an easy task. However, there are several options for funding available, and being well informed can help you prepare for and manage this cost.

  1. Apply for Financial Aid

You have to be poor to receive financial aid for college, right? Wrong! While many scholarships and grants are needs-based, many other financial aid opportunities are merit-based. So, if you do well academically, or meet other specialized criteria, you may qualify for assistance even if you are affluent. For example, many colleges and universities have endowments and use this “institutional aid” to attract promising students – and not just athletes — to their programs.

A good place to start applying for federal student aid is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Learn more about FAFSA® here.

  1. Explore Local Community Colleges

Academically-speaking, community colleges offer a phenomenal value for meeting almost any degree program’s general education requirements. Plus, students at community colleges often benefit from close teacher-to-student ratios, while many university and four-year college GE classes aren’t even taught by full-time faculty. There are also huge savings on room and board when a child attends a local institution and can continue living with mom and dad. Just remember to investigate requirements for transfer students to ensure that preparatory coursework will be accepted by the student’s chosen degree program.

  1. Borrow Sensibly

Even with financial aid and parental support, many students will still need to take out loans to pay for college. The key is to limit borrowing to an amount the student can reasonably be expected to pay back in ten years or less. The lower the loan amount, the better, but a good rule of thumb is to borrow no more than the expected first year’s salary.

  1. Research Scholarships

It’s a good idea to look for scholarships and grants regardless of how easy it is for you to find student loans. Why borrow when you do not need to? High school guidance counselors and college financial aid offices usually have information on available scholarships and grants. Information is also available at www.finaid.org.

Once a year, from January through March, we accept applications from Pen Air student members who are high school seniors and have a passion for helping others. Selected students are awarded scholarships in the amount of up to $10,000 to be paid at a level of $1,250 per semester for up to eight (8) semesters depending on the degree pursued. Visit penair.org/Scholarships to learn more.