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How to Pay for College Without Parents’ Help

The federal government sees paying for college as primarily your and your parents’ responsibility. The idea is to ensure that those who can afford college pay their own way, freeing up aid money for those who can’t afford to pay.

That all sounds great, but what if your parents won’t pay for college? Having parents who won’t pay for college can make things a bit more complex, but don’t get discouraged—you still have options for funding.

Let’s walkthrough a couple options on how to pay for college without parents help.



1) Fill Out the FAFSA

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should always be your first step when looking for financial aid for school. It’s the gateway to all federal financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans.

A combination of all three types of federal aid may be enough to pay for your schooling completely and possibly even help with living expenses.

Read More: Student Loans for Living Expenses

It’s true that you’ll need your parents’ financial information if you’re a dependent student—and you should never guess at the numbers—but if your parents refuse to fill it out or help you pay for school, you can talk to your school’s financial aid office.

In some cases, such as abusive situations or other extenuating circumstances , they can file a waiver that will allow you to be considered an independent student.

If that happens, your financial aid will be predicated on your income and need alone—possibly meaning more financial aid for you.


2) Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are an excellent way to get money for college. They’re competitive but well worth it if you’re willing to put the effort into competing for them. Thousands of scholarship programs exist, and each of them has their own criteria for eligibility.

Some are offered to students in a particular major, or to those who hail from a certain school district or locale. Others might be based on ethnicity or gender. Still others are offered for academic or athletic achievement, or to the winner of a contest.

Most scholarship programs require some kind of application. Others may possibly ask for an essay, references, and/or your high school or college transcript.

Most have annual deadlines as well. It’s critical that you take the time to understand each program you’re applying to, what it requires, and when you’ll need to submit your package.


3) Consider Getting a Job While In School

Another inconvenient but valid option is to work while attending classes. Most college towns contain an abundance of flexible part-time jobs that you can mold around your class schedule.

Universities across the country have also taken into account student debt and offer their own part-time jobs or work-study programs.

In order to truly pay for school, however, you may need to get a full-time job and work your classes around your job. In the last few years, many schools—including top-tier ones—have begun to offer night classes or even online courses that hold the same credits and weight as classes attended in person.

That means you can still work a regular daytime schedule and take online or night classes in your spare time.


4) Take Out Private Student Loans

If you still don’t have enough money to cover the costs of college, you can finally consider taking out a private student loan.

Many lenders allow eligible students to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, but you should always max out federal student loans before turning to private lenders. This is because federal student loans usually have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms.

In order to be eligible for private student loans, you will either need a good credit score or a creditworthy cosigner.

If you don’t have a good credit score and your parents aren’t willing to cosign, you can look into lenders who specialize in offering student loans without a cosigner.


5) Consider How You Can Reduce College Costs

It might not be the advice you want to hear, but if you find yourself in the difficult position of having to pay for your own college education, you may want to take a hard look at the colleges you’re choosing. While some schools are top of the line in terms of one major or another, there are usually plenty of schools that can offer a solid education in that field.

Before you get your heart set on a private education at an expensive school, look around and see if there is a less costly school that can still fit the bill. If you’re a new freshman, most of your first year or two will be prerequisites and lower-level classes anyway; many of those are offered at community colleges for much less money and transfer very easily.

Attending a less expensive school, at least for the first two years and then transferring to your school of choice later is an excellent option if you’re trying to pay for school on your own.

In fact, many students do exactly that, even if they do have financial aid packages and parental help. You could save thousands each year and still end up with a degree from your first-choice school.


Bottom Line

There can be many reasons why your parents won’t pay for college. Some are simple and come down to financial ability; others are emotional or far more complex.

Whatever the story behind your personal situation, you don’t have to give up on getting a college education. Do some research and find the best option—or combination of them—for your personal situation. You can still go to college, with or without help.

Author: Jeanette Perez

Jeanette Perez is a bestselling author and intelligence analyst who lives in the mountains of western Montana with 11 goats, two dogs, and way too many computers. She is passionate about helping college students and grads get their student loans paid off through smart money management.

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