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5 tips for affording college

March 25, 2015

College decision time is here, and seniors and their parents are busy comparing aid packages and considering options. If you are dreaming of a private Christian school like NNU but still have a financial gap to fill, here are a few options to think about.

1. Check into payment plan options.
Most colleges, especially private ones, won’t require you pay the entirety of your tuition bill in a lump sum up front. See what is offered for monthly payment plan options that would allow you to spread out your remaining costs in manageable sums across the year just like you would for most other major purchases.

2. Finish strong.
One of the easiest and best ways to make college affordable is to work hard in high school to qualify for the best academic scholarships that you can. Check out NNU’s academic awards here. Even though your senior year is well underway, study strong to the finish. Don’t allow senoritis to jeopardize your existing scholarship, and, if you are on the borderline between scholarships, check with the financial aid office to see if a slightly improved GPA or test score could still bump you into the higher category. You may be surprised at the payoff.

3. Don’t be too afraid of loans.
Many students have heard horror stories and warnings about the pitfalls of college debt. It is absolutely true that you should acquire large amounts of debt with extreme caution. However, student loans are one of the most common ways to make college affordable, and they don’t have to be a “debt” sentence for the rest of your life. Borrow smart by choosing low interest government options and do your research on loan repayment and forgiveness programs that may be available depending on your intended career field.

4. Work hard at working.
Students have been paying for college through summer employment for generations. Sure, the job market may not be great for seasonal workers in all areas and your paycheck may not go as far as it once did, but you can still offset your expenses significantly through plain old hard work. Think outside the box for a summer job. (Ever heard of corn topping?) Continue working once you are in school to make an even bigger dent in your bill. Part-time, on-campus jobs are designed to be manageable with your school schedule. The NNU Career Center offers job search resources.

5. Treat your scholarship hunt like a part-time job.
The drudge of continuously applying for outside scholarships—especially the long shot ones—can feel defeating. However, if you change your thinking about the process, you’ll be encouraged. Do the math. If only one or two scholarships pan out, you’ll almost always be making more per hour spent applying than you would at almost any other type of employment. Make a goal of applying for one scholarship per week (here are some suggestions on where to start). And don’t give up the hunt once you’ve started at your university. There is aid for continuing students as well first time freshmen.

Your education will cost money and time. After all, it is one of the most significant investments you will make. Expect to work hard to get to college and to stay there. Most importantly, choose the school that makes the sacrifices worth it.

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