How to Pay for College

By Huntington Learning Center

Whether you’ve been saving a lot or a little, the cost of college is a source of stress for all parents of college-bound students. Here’s the good news: there is financial assistance available—and there are many resources to make the process of securing that aid easier.

Huntington Learning Center recommends the following to go about paying for your teen’s college education:

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Every single year, billions of dollars are awarded to college students in the form of grants, federal student loans and work-study awards. Your teen should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 prior to the school year that your teen will attend college. (So, for the 2019-2020 school year, students/parents have between October 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020 to complete the FAFSA). Remember:

  • Grants are free money and do not have to be repaid. These are often awarded based on student need.
  • Loans are borrowed money that you or your teen must repay with interest. There are Direct Subsidized Loans (need based), Direct Unsubsidized Loans (not need based), Direct PLUS Loans (for graduate/professional students) and Direct Consolidation Loans (letting borrowers combine all federal student loans into a single loan).
  • The Federal Work-Study Program provides students with financial need part-time jobs so they can earn money and pay for education expenses.

Apply for scholarships. Never assume that your teen isn’t likely to be eligible for scholarships. There are of course national scholarship programs for students who excel in academics, make a difference in their communities, demonstrate leadership or have financial need. There are scholarships for students with certain skills or talents (e.g. sports or music). But there are many other possibilities out there, including local scholarships awarded by your town’s businesses, community associations, nonprofits and more. At a minimum, your teen should explore/contact these resources to learn about possible college scholarships:

  • The high school guidance counselor, who will have a checklist to keep your teen on track and information about all possible sources of aid.
  • Online resources like com and scholarships.com.
  • The colleges to which they are applying (by contacting their office of financial aid and visiting the website).

Communicate with colleges’ financial aid offices. The colleges to which your teen is applying are invaluable resources of help and information regarding paying for college. They will use the FAFSA to assess your teen’s eligibility for student aid (other than federal aid) and to create your family’s financial award package, but it can’t hurt to contact them, especially if…

  • The gap between the financial aid package your teen has been offered and the actual costs is too wide for you and your teen to cover.
  • Your circumstances have changed since you submitted the FAFSA and you want to make sure they’re aware of how these changes impact your ability to fund college.
  • You want to make absolutely certain you’re exploring every possible avenue for financial aid help.

Do your homework. Bottom line: do the research and check out every option. Take the time to get familiar with the Federal Student Aid website and make sure your teen is on a first-name basis with the high school guidance counselor. If you have a financial advisor, get their insight as well. There might be financial planning opportunities, tax benefits or other loopholes of which you’re unaware that can help.

College is expensive, but it’s an important investment in your teen’s future—and yes, it is within reach. Talk with the professionals at your teen’s high school and the colleges your teen is considering and leave no option unexplored. The earlier in high school you and your teen start doing your research, the better!


Stay in touch and sign up for our newsletter