A lack of funding can quickly turn your college dreams into a seemingly impossible feat. Federal aid is the first source many students turn to for extra funding, but this money can dry up quickly and not all applicants are eligible for aid. Returning to college without federal assistance can be difficult, but is by no means impossible. Tap into all of the available resources and you can find a way to finish your degree and pursue a fulfilling career.

Contact your school to find out what they can offer you in terms of aid. Many schools offer their own financial aid, separate from federal aid. Your school may also be able to offer you a payment plan, which will allow you to pay your tuition and fees over time rather than all at once.

Apply for scholarships. Scholarships are available from both your school and other organizations. Thoroughly research your options using the Internet and books available at your library. Focus on those that cater to your particular demographic or skill set. If you have completed a lot of volunteer work, look for organizations that highly value that. If writing is your strong suit, focus on scholarships awarded based on a paper or essay. Don’t waste your time on national scholarships that are geared toward students with a skill or type of experience that you don’t have.

Ask your employer about tuition assistance. If you aren’t currently employed, look for a job that provides a good tuition assistance or reimbursement plan. Many employers are happy to help pay for college if your area of study will help make you more valuable to the company.

Compare student loans. Taking out a loan to pay for college should be a last resort, because this is money that you will ultimately need to pay back. However, taking out a loan with a relatively low interest rate that will allow you to defer payment until graduation can provide you with the opportunity to go back to school, even without any financial aid.

Maximize your income. This may seem obvious but many full time students are so focused on classes and other school activities that they fail to take the time to focus on their finances. Work at least part time throughout your college years. Many schools offer work study programs and employment opportunities on campus to make combining a job and a full class schedule easier.

Do everything you can to reduce your expenses. Purchase used books, pack a lunch instead of eating out and attend free events rather than expensive outings. Opt for the most affordable living arrangement on your campus, be it dorms or an apartment, and share the expenses with a roommate. For a free room, consider becoming a Resident Advisor in one of the dorms.

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