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Navigating the Maze of College Costs

Lighting the path to affordable education

Part 17 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
By Ian Bin
Figuring out how to afford college is tricky, just like preparing for a Halloween party. We’re here to help you navigate this process, helping you find ways to make your college journey less daunting and more affordable. Let’s dive in and uncover these tips, making your college financing as easy as figuring out your Halloween costume!

Choose a School That Fits Your Costs

Each academy or institution has a different cost. Public universities, like houses with creaky doors and cobwebs, typically offer lower tuition for in-state students.
In contrast, private institutions might offer more substantial financial aid packages than a mysterious, secluded manor. Community colleges, like a friendly neighborhood pumpkin carving contest, offer much lower costs and the possibility to transfer to a 4-year institution later. Consider your career goals, the price tag, and the financial aid provided before deciding.
Filling Out the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is crucial for college because it’s the key to receiving financial aid. It allows colleges and the government to assess your financial need and determine how much federal aid you qualify for.1 It may also be required for grants, work-study programs, and low-interest federal student loans.1 Without filing the FAFSA, much of this aid is inaccessible, like getting trapped in a corn maze. Therefore, it’s a vital step in making college affordable.

Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible because some colleges award both need- and merit-based money on a first-come, first-served basis.2

There are different scholarships available depending upon your strengths. Some are based on merit (grades, athletic ability, community service), others are on need, and some may target specific student groups (like students pursuing a particular major or students from a specific demographic).3
Apply for as many as possible, even the smaller ones, as they add up and can significantly decrease your college expenses like a pile of leaves, reducing the chill of the ground beneath.
Sources for Scholarships
This site provides scholarships to apply for based on your strengths, skills, and interests.
This site offers many scholarships and allows for customized searches based on your profile.
The financial aid office at a college or career school
They can provide information about available scholarships from the institution and guidance on other potential scholarship sources.1 It’s always a good idea to check with them to understand what financial aid options might be available to you for that school.
Whereas scholarships are typically merit-based, grants are generally need-based. However, sometimes merit can come into play. For instance, the Pell Grant is for undergraduate students with significant financial need.4
Enroll in a Work-Study Program
These programs offer students part-time work, often on-campus, which helps cover school expenses and offers valuable work experience. Plus, the employers (usually the college or university) will work around your class schedule. It’s like bobbing for apples, balancing fun with a bit of effort.
Income and Savings
A work-study program is not the only option. Any job can provide income, work experience, or valuable connections. The job can be full or part-time. Any money you make can go directly to your savings, which can go towards paying for college. Even a small amount put towards college each month can save you from a lot of debt in the future, like storing up Halloween candy for a long winter.
Take Out Federal Loans
Federal loans typically have lower rates than private loans.5 However, with loans it’s necessary to remember you’ll have to pay back the amount borrowed with interest, like a pumpkin that’s been carved too early and starts to wilt.

You don’t have to say yes to all the aid, especially student loans. If you need to borrow to pay for college, take out federal student loans before private ones.

Federal loans have benefits that personal loans don’t, including access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.6 Income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs are beneficial as they make loan payments manageable based on income and can potentially erase remaining debt after a certain period.7
Borrow Private Loans
Private loans from sources like a bank or credit union should be your last resort because they often have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment options than federal loans.8 Always thoroughly research and read the terms before accepting a private loan.

End of the Journey

In each of these steps, it’s always important to research your options, read all the terms and conditions carefully, and plan. Before making big decisions, speak with professionals like a college financial aid officer or a trusted advisor. It’s like planning the perfect route for trick-or-treating to maximize candy haul.


1 “Types of Financial Aid: Loans, Grants, and Work-Study Programs.” Federal Student Aid, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
2 Helhoski, Anna. “What Is Need-Based Financial Aid?” NerdWallet, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
3 Bridges, Meilee. “What Is a Merit-Based Scholarship?” What Is a Merit-Based Scholarship?, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
4 “Federal Pell Grants Are Usually Awarded Only to Undergraduate Students.” Federal Student Aid, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
5 “Interest Rates and Fees for Federal Student Loans.” Federal Student Aid, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
6 “Payment Count Adjustments Toward Income-Driven Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs.” Federal Student Aid, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.
7 “New Student Loan Repayment Plan Benefits Borrowers beyond Lower Monthly Payments.” The White House, The United States Government, 21 Aug. 2023,
8 “When It Comes to Paying for College, Career School, or Graduate School, Federal Student Loans Can Offer Several Advantages over Private Student Loans.” Federal Student Aid, Accessed 30 Oct. 2023.

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