Does the price of tuition give you sticker shock? You’re not alone! Last year, the College Board reported the average cost of tuition and fees varied — $39,400 at private colleges, $10,940 for state residents at public colleges and $28,240 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
While loans can ease some of the burden when it comes to financing a college education, students should take the time to research and pursue scholarships and other opportunities that will reduce costs now, helping you save money even after you’ve gotten that degree! Read on for four overlooked opportunities that can help you prepare and pay for college right now.
1. The 529 Plan
The 529 Plan is offered by states, state agencies and educational institutions to encourage people to save money for college while offering great tax advantages. Anyone can contribute to a 529 Plan — parents, extended family, the student, etc. And, they’re offered in two ways — college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor at least one type of 529 plan. The Virginia529 account plan lets you invest money in an account that grows over time so you can use it to pay for college whenever you enroll. The 529 plans are obviously most effective over a long period of time, but soon-to-be college students (or whoever is footing the tuition bill) can still benefit from the tax advantages and investments they make even now.
2. Scholarships to help pay for college
You can qualify for a scholarship in almost anything these days. Are you a female above 5’10” or a male at least 6’2″? Then you could be awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the Tall Clubs International Foundation! Or, perhaps you’re a big fan of playing Minecraft. There’s a $2,000 scholarship available for students like you! The point is this — you can find countless scholarship opportunities to apply for if you know where to look. Talk to your guidance counselor, ask your parents’ employers and look into local foundations and see if they offer any scholarships you might qualify for. List your hobbies, talents, work history, community service experience and educational interests, and use that as a starting point for your scholarship research. Your local library should also offer resources on scholarships available in your area and nationwide. Fastweb is a great place to start looking, but don’t overlook and underestimate your personal connections and local area as a source for scholarship funding.
3. Contests that can help you pay for college
Contests are a great way to fund your college education. Oftentimes you can enter a contest at the last minute, giving you great options if you’re starting college soon. Have a talent for duck-calling? Then enter the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest! Or, maybe you have a knack for duct tape and fashion? Then you should lend your expertise to the Stuck at Prom contest and earn up to $10,000 for college. Contests are often open to everyone, but remember that bigger, nationwide contests are harder to win. So don’t overlook your state, regional and local contests, too.
4. College Financial Aid
The financial aid office at your college of choice is also a great resource to tap into for scholarships and creative funding. From work-study programs to program-specific scholarships, colleges offer a variety of opportunities to help you ease the financial burden. Marymount University offers scholarship opportunities for all current and prospective students, and we’ll automatically award students merit scholarships ranging from $18,000 to $26,000 based on your GPA! Other scholarships are available depending on what you plan to study.
Why let applying to college be more stressful than it needs to be? Paying for college doesn’t have to be intimidating if you take the time and initiative to search out different funding options. You just might be surprised by how simple it can be to reduce your tuition without the help of loans!