How to Pay for College: 5 Ways to Pay for College

Paying for college isn’t always easy. Most students aren’t able to pay their full tuition out of pocket and have to apply for financial aid from their school as well as federal student aid from the FAFSA. No matter how much aid you receive, many students still have to pay a portion of their bills. On top of that, not everyone’s parents are in a position financially to help them pay for school.

Holding a part-time or full-time job might help you get close to your tuition bill, but that isn’t always the case. So what do you do if you come up short? How can you pay for all of your college costs? Here are some tips and tricks to help you pay for college and start building your college savings, so you don’t have to worry about student loan debt in the future.

How Do You Pay for College if You Can’t Afford it? How Do People Pay for College?

The big question is, how to pay for college? If you find yourself asking that, you’re not alone. Most college students find themselves asking that. Even students who work full time still need a little extra help. Here are 5 ways to help pay for college and lessen the financial burden you may be feeling

1. Apply for Student Loans

Most students who attend college end up applying for student loans to help pay for it. Loans can sometimes be intimidating, but on the flip side, they can be extremely helpful in paying for school. There are two types of student loans you can apply for, federal student loans and private student loans.

Federal student loans generally come from filling out the FAFSA form. This is a federal form that you will fill out every year. It assesses your income as well as your parents to determine if you are eligible for financial aid from the government. It also estimates your parents expected financial contribution to your education.

You can also apply for an unsubsidized loan from the government, starting at $5,500 for first-year students and gradually increasing based on how many years you’ve been in school. This is a great opportunity because these federal loans are available regardless of expected financial need, and the interest is charged during in-school, deferment, and grace periods.

If you are still looking for more aid after that, you can look into private student loans. You can receive these from your bank or other financial institutions. Or you can locate private loans online, here.

2. Apply for Financial Aid

Most colleges offer some type of financial aid to their students. This is generally based on academic performance and is typically awarded when the student initially applies to the school. After first getting accepted, the student must commit to the school to receive their financial aid award letter from the school.

Other than academic-based aid, most schools also offer some scholarships that students can apply for. You can find that information on your school’s financial aid office website. Any additional scholarships you receive will then be added to your total financial aid award from your school.

If you are still in high school and applying to college, some high schools offer scholarships that you can apply for. Whether it is through your high school or local businesses in your city, this is a great opportunity to look into.

If you are trying to decide whether to prioritize your scholarship search or whether to apply for student loans (private loans or federal loans), it’s better to prioritize scholarships. You have to pay loans back, but scholarships are essentially free money that you can use towards your school tuition, without the stress of paying it back.

3. Open a 529 Plan

Opening a savings account is a great way to help pay for college. It’s a great idea to start saving early. The earlier you start saving, the better the position you will be in when it comes time to pay for school. One of the best savings accounts to help pay for college is a 529 plan.

The 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan that is designed to encourage savings to help pay for college costs. There are a few different plans to choose from so you can pick the best college savings plan for you.

The first plan available is a prepaid tuition plan. This plan allows you to purchase credits at your desired college or university. This plan can only be used for tuition, not other college costs. This plan is better for those who already have a specific university or college in mind that they would like to attend.

The education savings plan can be used for tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board. This is a great plan for those who want to start saving but might not know where they want to attend school. Another great thing about this plan is that it can be used for a variety of different expenses, including but not limited to tuition.

Whichever 529 plan you choose, you may be eligible for certain tax benefits, depending on what state you are in. Opening a 529 plan is a great option for high school students to start saving early or even college students in financial need who are planning to start saving.

4. Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships don’t just come from your college or high school, you can also search for scholarships online and apply for those. Scholarships are great for those in financial need, as those don’t need to be paid back as loans would.

There are many different online resources for finding scholarships that you can apply for. Most of them have a short and free application process. They either require you to fill out a form or submit an essay.

There are many different online resources where undergraduate students can apply for scholarships, and here are some of my favorites that I use as a college student. Niche has tons of easy scholarships to apply for, most of them don’t even require an essay. Another great resource is It is a search engine for scholarships based on your demographics as well as what you are planning to study.

5. Upromise

Upromise is an online rewards program that offers the ability to save for college. When you sign up for Upromise you can link a bank account or 529 plan and have all of your rewards transferred there.

You can earn rewards with Upromise for shopping online and dining at certain restaurants. If you are hesitant about opening a 529 plan or haven’t opened one yet, you can choose to have your rewards transferred into a checking or savings account as well.

In addition to cashback rewards, Upromise also offers a monthly scholarship for its users. Each month Upromise selects five families and rewards them each $529. Winners are randomly selected each month.

There are three different ways to earn entries into the Upromise scholarship. You can earn one entry just for signing up for the platform. You earn another entry for linking a 529 plan to your account. And you earn additional earnings for each dollar of earned rewards per month.

Students can use Upromise alone to help save for college or they can use it in tandem with a 529 plan. As a college student myself, I would recommend using them together. You can maximize your earnings this way.

How Do Middle-Class Families Pay for College?

Paying for college can be difficult for anyone. It is nice when your family offers to help, but even they might not have the resources to pay all of the college costs. There are a couple of ways to help families and their students pay for college.

An easy way that middle-class families can help their students pay for college is to apply for federal student aid. By filling out the FAFSA your student will be eligible for federal student aid. All you need is your parent’s college info and the previous season’s tax information. The form is fairly simple to fill out and can all be done online.

The FAFSA factors our the expected family contribution, which isn’t always accurate. Even if your family isn’t able to contribute financially, there are a ton of other resources you can check out.

In addition to filling out the FAFSA students can apply for an unsubsidized federal student loan. First-year students are eligible for $5,500 and it gradually increases every year of school. This loan is better than an average student loan or private student loan because there are more loan forgiveness options with these types of loans.

If student loans or federal loans don’t sound very appealing to you, you can try to apply for scholarships. You can apply for scholarships offered by your college or universities financial aid office or you can search for private scholarships online.

There are many different online scholarship browsers but some of my favorite as a college student are Niche and I have had the easiest time using these platforms.

Do Parents Usually Pay for College?

Do parents pay for college or does the burden fall on the student? It’s different for everyone. There is no typical family. Some families have to borrow money, some are able to pay the bill in full, and some don’t help at all.

There isn’t an easy answer to this question. Families with more money typically contribute more towards their student’s tuition than families with less. Community college is generally less expensive than attending college at a four-year university, so students at community colleges might receive more help from their parents.

So to answer the question of if parents usually pay for college, it depends on the family and their financial situation. It also depends on the aid that the student is receiving.

How Do Most Parents Pay for College?

How to pay for college is a big question. Do you just accept student loans and federal loans? Or do you apply for tons of scholarships? Or do you expect your parents to pay for it all? Students paying for college tend to rely on all three of those things.

1. Open a 529 Plan

This is a great and easy way to help your child pay for college. There are two types of 529 plans you can open, the prepaid tuition plan and the education savings plan. With the prepaid tuition plan, you purchase a certain amount of credits at a college or university ahead of time. With the education savings plan, you can use those savings for tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board.

You can choose which plan is best for you and your family. If your child knows what school they want to attend, the prepaid tuition plan might be better. If your child isn’t sure about what school they want to attend, the education savings plan might work best.

2. Upromise

Upromise is an online cash-back rewards program that is a great resource for paying for college. You earn cashback on your online purchases and at select restaurants. You can link a savings account or your 529 accounts directly to your Upromise account to transfer your earnings.

In addition to offering the opportunity to earn cashback, Upromise also offers monthly scholarships. Each month they choose five families and reward each of them with $529. Winners are chosen randomly and you have the chance to win each month.

3. Apply for Aid from the Federal Government

Many families and students have to apply for federal aid to pay for college. You can do this by filling out the FAFSA form online. By filling out this form you may be eligible for aid from the federal government to help you pay for college.

To fill out the FAFSA you need your parent’s college info as well as your high school info. Additionally, you will need the previous season’s tax information.

4. Grant Programs

Applying for grants is a great way to help pay for school. The nice thing about grants is that they don’t need to be repaid. To learn more about federal grants click here.

By filling out the FAFSA form you are automatically considered for federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. These both come from the federal government

For more information about other types of grants, you can apply to check out You can use this site to search for different grants you might qualify for.

5. Apply for a Private Loan

You can also apply for private loans to help pay for college. Loans do need to be paid back, so it is important to pay attention to the interest rates when you select a loan. Fixed interest rates don’t fluctuate throughout the time you are paying back the loan, this allows you to accurately predict your payments. Variable interest rates can change, and your payment will fluctuate. It is important to pay attention to the approved interest rate of your loan.

You can receive private loans from your bank or other financial institutions. Or you can look into personal loans from family members.

How Can I Pay for College on My Own?

Paying for college on your own with no assistance can be difficult, but it can be done. There are a few ways you can accomplish this.

If you are going to be paying for school all on your own, you’re going to want to have a job. Working full time would be ideal, but with school, this isn’t always feasible. You can work full time in the summer and on breaks.

It is important to work during the school year too. Most schools offer a work-study program, where you can work on campus and receive a scholarship for doing that. If you plan on working anyways this is something to look into.

You need to be able to pay your bills, so loans will most likely be unavoidable. You can look into private loans or federal loans. As a first-year student in the US, you are eligible for a $5,500 federal unsubsidized loan, each year you are in school this amount goes up.

Grants and scholarships are another great way to help pay for college. These are better than loans because in most instances they don’t need to be repaid. You can locate scholarships to fill out on your school’s financial aid office’s website. And you are automatically entered for federal grants when you fill out the FAFSA form, which most colleges and universities require.

You might also receive gift aid. If you have a graduation party after finishing high school you might receive money from friends and family members. This money can be put towards tuition and other college costs.

Do Student Loans Go Away After 7 Years?

No, student loans won’t go away. You will remain in debt until they are fully paid off. There isn’t a way around that, you have to repay your student loans. However, after about 7 years student loan debt will be taken off your credit score and report.

What AreWays to Pay for College?

1. Loans

You can apply for loans from your bank or any other financial institution you belong to. It is important to be careful when applying for and accepting loans. You don’t want to put yourself into too much debt, as loans need to be paid back in full.

It is also important to pay attention to what type of interest payments you are responsible for. Whether it is a fixed interest rate or variable interest rate.

2. Grants/Scholarships

Grants and scholarships are great to help pay for college. As a college student myself these are my favorite because they don’t need to be repaid. You can find scholarships to apply for on your college or universities financial aid website, and your base scholarship is generally based on academic performance. You are automatically entered for federal grants when you fill out the FAFSA form, which most schools require.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a federal form that most colleges and universities require their students to fill out. This form determines whether or not you are eligible for federal aid, based on your family’s expected contribution. This form is fairly easy to fill out, and all aid received from it is free.

4. Financial Aid

Most colleges and universities offer some type of financial aid to their students. Once you are accepted and have committed to a school, they will send you your financial aid award letter telling you how much money the college has awarded to you. This can be very helpful in paying for college.

Final Thoughts on How to Pay for College

The big question: how to pay for college? To be honest, no one is paying for it completely out of pocket. Most people are taking advantage of creative ways to pay for college. With all of the ways we outlined above, paying for college can be made a little less stressful.