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How to Afford College

You can come up with college tuition -- even a six-figure one. It just takes a little digging.


  • Step 1: Start saving now Begin saving for college as soon as possible. Assuming an 8% yearly return on your savings, socking away $100 a month for 18 years would leave you with $48,000 -- more than double what you put in!
  • TIP: Consult a financial planner—or even just a friend who’s recently paid for college—about ways to maximize your college savings fund.
  • Step 2: Get student aid Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Download it at "":
  • Step 3: Find plenty of scholarships Apply for scholarships and grants. In addition to rewards for academic and athletic achievement, plus funds set up for minorities, there are all kinds of weird-but-true scholarships, like one for left-handed people and another awarded to the couple who creates the best prom outfit out of duct tape. Search online for "unusual scholarships."
  • Step 4: Apply for school-specific scholarships Apply for scholarships and grants offered by the college you will be attending. For example, David Letterman established a telecommunications scholarship at his alma mater, Indiana's Ball State University. Contact your institution's financial aid office to find out what's available.
  • TIP: Apply early! You don't want to miss any entry deadlines if a project or essay is involved.
  • Step 5: Consider a loan Consider taking out a loan. The federal government offers both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The former are a better deal, but both are better than loans from private lenders.
  • Step 6: Look for work-study opportunities Ask about work-study opportunities at your school. These are part-time campus jobs reserved for students.
  • TIP: You will likely pay less in taxes for a work-study position than you would for a normal job.
  • Step 7: Start with community college If you can't afford a four-year school, consider attending a community college for two years and then transferring to the university of your choice.
  • Step 8: Get a job Work full or part time while you attend school part time. It will take you longer to get your degree, but you will have less debt.
  • TIP: Some jobs will pay part of your tuition.
  • Step 9: Join the Army reserve Consider joining the ROTC -- the Army's Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Army ROTC is the single largest source of scholarship money in the United States.
  • FACT: Graduates of two-year colleges make an average of $400,000 more over their lifetime than those who graduate only from high school.

You Will Need

  • Research skills
  • Scholarships and grants to apply for
  • A college savings fund
  • A financial planner
  • A college loan
  • A campus job
  • A full or part-time job
  • An ROTC membership

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