Ideally, you should start financial planning at least a year in advance of your first semester of college. It’s important to start saving early, so that when you apply, you can demonstrate to your chosen university that you can afford a year of tuition fees and living costs. At most United States universities, students will also need to demonstrate a source of income to show that future expenses will be bearable.
Complete the FAFSA Form
It all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submitting this form opens the door to numerous types of financial aid. You can't do much without it, at least in the area of applying for grants, some student loans, and aid provided by schools and your state. More than $2 billion dollars went unclaimed in 2020 because students and their families simply failed to complete and submit a FAFSA.
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The earlier you deal with this, the better, because many schools have first-come-first-serve programs. When the money is gone, it's gone.But there's one hitch here. You'll need your parents' cooperation. Assuming you're their dependent, the form calls for certain information about their income, taxes, and assets. They're certainly not legally required to pay for your college education, and submitting the FAFSA with their information doesn't put them on the hook to do so, but the information will up your chances of receiving assistance.
KNOW THE COSTS
The cost of tuition and living expenses will differ depending on the state in which a school is located, whether it’s in an urban or rural area, and whether the school is public (state-funded) or private. The cost of living is often lower in Southern and Midwestern states as well as in rural areas. Students need to make an informed decision about which schools to apply to based on their “best fit,” which includes cost. Create a budget to figure out how much you’ll need for tuition, living expenses, food, transportation, books and other expenses. Most universities provide an estimate of these costs on their websites.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
There are a variety of scholarships available. Some are merit-based, so you must have good grades or fulfill service requirements to qualify. But others are based on your situation, your location, or the school you're attending. Grants are often needs-based—your income and savings are simply insufficient for you to manage this on your own, or some other special situation applies to you. The Scholarships.plus Database can help you get started and guide your search. It can be worth it to apply each year because available scholarships can depend on what year you're in.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EDUCATIONUSA’S SERVICES
Prospective international students are highly encouraged to visit their local EducationUSA office. A network of over 425 international advising centers in 175 countries, EducationUSA is run by the U.S government. The offices hold free seminars about financial aid and other admissions-related topics.. EducationUSA advisers can also assist students with finding the university that best fits their needs, goals and financial situation.
Reduce Your Tuition Costs
Consider choosing a college with lower tuition rates. In-state schools are generally cheaper than out-of-state or private schools. Some schools offer discounts based on how close you live to the campus. You might qualify for discounts if you're a "legacy" because one or both of your parents went to school there.
Of course, school costs include more than just tuition, but you can save in other areas as well. Buy used rather than new textbooks. Check your college bookstore to find out what's available. A lot of students sell their used books back to these stores when they graduate. Some will even rent textbooks, and online booksellers often offer used copies as well.