How to Pay for College With No Money (Part-Time Job Not Required)

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Going to college is all about socializing, freedom, and prepping for your future, right? Unfortunately, more students have to worry about paying for school rather than enjoying it.

But here’s the good news: There are plenty of creative ways to pay for college and still have time to enjoy what’s supposed to be the best years of your life.

Here’s how to pay for college with no money, and without getting a part-time job.

1. Apply for scholarships

Even if you’re not valedictorian or the star athlete, you should still apply for every scholarship possible. After all, it’s free money!

Scholarships are available for a variety of reasons. There are ones based on ethnic background, career or major interest, where you live, your socioeconomic background, and more. There are even scholarships created just for average students.

How do you tap into this free money? Check out one of these scholarship search tools. You can enter some basic information such as personal and academic details to find a list of ones where you’d potentially be eligible.

And don’t just apply to one-apply to as many as possible. Julia Isabel Martinez Rivera landed more than $50,000 in scholarships after applying for so many that she forgot submitting applications for some of them. One random scholarship Julia received was for $20,000 through a textbook company, so it doesn’t hurt to apply to even the most off-beat ones.

2. Become a resident assistant

A huge cost associated with attending college is room and board. The College Board reports those expenses alone range from $10,800 a year for a public four-year school to over $12,000 for a private four-year school. One way to combat those fees is by becoming a resident assistant (RA).

As an RA, you are often responsible for building a community in your dorm, helping with any resident problems, encourage a positive living environment, and report to the school of any issues. While there is a time commitment outside of class such as attending weekly meetings and being available to residents often, the benefit is your housing costs are covered. Not to mention, you will spend a chunk of your time in your room anyway doing homework and can still participate in extracurricular activities.

To apply for an RA position, contact the housing department at your school to find out the exact process.

3. Save money on textbooks

You might think textbooks are only a small part of college expenses, but book prices have increased from $58 in 2012 to $80 by 2016 — and they continue to rise. Students are spending around $1,200 a year on textbooks alone, a pretty steep price when tuition and housing expenses aren’t getting any better.

So, figuring out a way to diminish those costs could certainly help your bottom line. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Share textbooks: See if you can find someone in each of your classes who is willing to go in on a textbook. This will save money for both of you, and it’s pretty easy to figure out a schedule of who will have it by choosing which days you each plan to do homework. Or, make it a study date.
  • Buy your textbooks used: There is no reason to pay full price for a textbook. Most professors will use the same books each year, so find a student who took the course a semester earlier and buy the textbook off of them. Some professors do require specific editions, so just check in first before purchasing anything. Then, once you’re done with it, sell it to another needy pupil to recoup your costs.
  • Try to find an e-book: Many textbooks now have online versions that are much cheaper to download than buying as a hardcover. Do a quick web search to see if any of the titles assigned to you are available online, or ask your professor if there is an electronic version.

4. Learn to cook

According to the Hechinger Report, one of the main reasons college costs are becoming more expensive is due to the rising cost of meal plans. They found that on average a college or university charges about $4,500 for a basic three-meal plan or $18.75 per day over an eight-month academic term.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that an average single person only pays $4,894 in a year or $13.40 per day for food. That adds up to a savings of over $5 per day — or nearly $1,200 over the course of the semester — if you can cook instead of purchasing a meal plan.

You might even want to consider going in on groceries with a roommate and splitting cooking duties to bring the costs down even more, potentially.

5. Explore student loan options

After you’ve exhausted all opportunities to secure free money through scholarships and grants, you might still have a gap in coverage for your educational costs. This is where student loans might come in handy.

Loans can cover everything from tuition to living expenses while you’re still in school, so you don’t have to take on a part-time job. Of course, some require you to start repaying while still in school and all stipulate you pay this money back in the years after you graduate, but it would allow you to focus on school in the meantime.

There are two types of student loans to consider:

  • Federal student loans: These loans are awarded when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To determine your eligibility for federal aid, the cost of your school and need for funds are taken into consideration. You could receive a combination of grants, work-study options, and federal loans in this process and you’ll need to decide whether to accept the package presented. Interest rates on these loans are regulated by the government.
  • Private student loans: Unlike federal student loans, private loans are issued from individual lenders such as Citizens Bank or Sallie Mae. These lenders set the terms, and interest rates, which can be fixed or variable, and determine their own eligibility requirements.

For more information on how to get student loans, either federal or private, check out this guide.

Enjoy school without working part-time

These creative ways to pay for college make it so you can spend the next two to four years focusing on getting good grades and participating in many school social activities. Try using one or all of these tips to lower the immediate cost of college, but understand that things such as loans will have to be paid back once you graduate.

Need a student loan?

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LenderRates (APR)Eligibility 

1 = Citizens Disclaimer.

2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
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