How I’m Paying for My $20,000/Semester Education

I am paying for school on my own.

Let me just start by saying, it’s rough.

But let me also say, it’s possible (if only by God’s grace).

Per semester, the cost of my schooling is over $19,000.

I am currently paying, per semester, just over $7,000. (And working on lowering that too!)

So here are some quick tips–some of which you have heard, some of which you need reminders on,  and some of which will be new.

1. Get good grades in high school. Obvious. But I just had this talk with my freshman in high school brother last night while helping him study for finals: every little decision that he makes right now has the power to effect his college–and therefore job–options in the future. His response? “Stop, you’re scaring me.”

2. Get good grades in high school. Seriously. This knocked off $5,000 a semester for me in grants that I never have to pay back!

3. Apply to scholarships. (Think: the essay ones & the low money ones.) This one is also obvious. I promise we’re getting to some good tricks in a second, this is just something that has come back to bite me. I did not apply to many scholarships in high school, and the ones that I did apply to were always the easy ones (i.e., no essay required) or the ones worth thousands. Think about it: the less money it is, the less people will be applying for them. Also, the more work it is, the less people will be applying for them. Less applicants = More chance for you to win!

****Sidenote to #3: Apply in manageable chunks. Don’t just try to apply to all of the essay ones in a day (unless that works for you–then by all means, do it), but make a schedule and stick to it. Have Christmas break off of school? Pledge to apply for one scholarship a day over your whole break (what I’m currently doing). Or how about one scholarship a weekend during a busier time of year? Either way, make it something that you don’t dread and therefore put off and therefore never get done (can you tell I’m speaking to the high school Jo here?).

****And another sidenote to #3: Still apply for those easy ones. Because hey, who knows? You COULD win that $10,000. Someone does. Just don’t rely on it.

4. Apply for the Parent Plus Loan, even if your parents don’t want to help you pay. Before parents bite my head off here, listen to this. If you have a parent that has bad credit, have them apply for the loan. If they get denied, then you automatically get to accept the loan for yourself. If they get approved, and don’t want it? All they have to do is deny it and it’s erased. I got $2,000 a semester from this one! (though I do have to pay this one back)

5. Get a job. Yeah, self explanatory. But really, you CAN get a job. All it takes is some walking around a shopping center and asking every single manager if they are hiring. You’re bound to get a couple “yes’s”.  Get over the “embarrassment” that it may cause you. (My friend Jill and I did this, and that’s how we got our current job!)

6. Make a budget. Now this one, quite honestly, sucks. We’re young! We want to buy clothes! And go to the movies! And get Starbucks every single day. But then think about it–clothes will last two years, movies will last two hours, and Starbucks will last two minutes. A college education on the other hand, will last a lifetime. It’s about getting your priorities straight–which is honestly something that I am still foolish about and still trying to learn. Factor in the things that  you HAVE to pay for each month: like a $30 cell phone bill (although this one is questionable…do you really need a smart phone? Really?), gas money (to get to your job of course), and tuition. Then, and ONLY THEN, can you really see how much money you have left over to buy said clothes and coffee.

7. And lastly, Talk to your school and, more specifically, your financial aid representative. Set up an appointment and talk to someone face-to-face. Not only will this make it more personal, and therefore make the rep more willing to help you find extra grants lying around, it will also show that you are really dedicated to making your education happen. This is how I found out about the Parent Plus Loan tactic, and now I am setting up another one to see if they have any other ideas to help me out.

Good luck! If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them! I always am in need of more ways to help me pay for this spendy but worth it education!

Love, Just Jo


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