Since 1981, college costs have risen at a rate that outstripped the general inflation rate, and parents are less likely than ever to provide college tuition money for their children. The rising expense associated with college has left many students wondering how they can pay for college and their living expenses at the same time. Fortunately, there are many resources for paying tuition and covering living expenses while a student is in school.
File your taxes. Even if you have not worked the previous year, it is important to file your taxes because your financial aid eligibility is based on those numbers. In addition, you may receive money back from the Earned Income Credit if you have dependents. For information on filing your taxes, visit the Internal Revenue Service website: http://www.irs.gov/index.html.
Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. This form asks a few questions about your household budget, your dependents and your income. Have your tax return from the previous year handy because the FAFSA form uses some of the information from your tax return. How much money you receive in grants, work-study and federally backed loans depends on the information on your FAFSA.
Follow up with your university's financial aid department. They may have additional forms for you to fill out to apply for financial aid, such as promissory notes that you must sign agreeing to the loan terms or financial aid training materials that you need to fill out.
Apply for work-study positions through your financial aid department. These positions allow you to learn in your field and earn money at the same time, and these positions also work around your school schedule.
Apply for private loans if the work-study and federally backed student loans do not cover your expenses. Keep in mind that these loans have interest rates that are 2 percent or more above the rates for federally backed loans, so only take out the money that you need.
Apply for an additional part-time job if any of the previous sources of financial aid do not work out and if your schedule allows it.
Read all loan terms carefully. Many students do not thoroughly read the terms and as a result misunderstand the terms of the loan or how much they must repay.
Only take on as much employment responsibility as you can with your school load. If you absolutely must work full time, consider going to college only part-time so that you do not become overwhelmed and fail classes.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.