What are some ways to pay for college?

1). How do I get scholarships and what are some ways to higher your chances?
2). Let’s say a college gives me some financial aid, but it is not enough- should I ask for more? or is it unprofessional/long-shot?
3). Do I need to fill out fafsa annually or is the financial aid they give, granted annually?
4). what are grants?
5). what are other ways of paying for college?

Thank you to anyone who answers this. I am applying to college next year and need all the help I can because my parents are immigrants and need help with this too.

  1. You get them through the college(s) or through outside organizations. To up your chances, get very high grades and stats, perform community service, look at the scholarships and meet the requirements.
  2. You can ask, but it is a long shot.
  3. FAFSA is filed annually.
  4. Grants are awards that do not have to repaid. Same as a scholarship. In fact, athletic scholarships are officially 'Grants in Aid'
  5. Other ways? Savings, working and pay as you go, getting talent scholarships (art, athletics, music), joining the military or ROTC

Run the net price calculator on the website of every college you are interested in before applying to see what you can expect to pay.

Are you a US citizen or green card holder? That makes a difference.

Most of the best scholarships and aid comes from the colleges themselves. The higher your grades and test scores, the better your chances are to get more aid. Outside of that, local scholarships are probably your best shot. The national ones are very hard to get. Ask your guidance counselor for a list of local scholarships that other students have gotten in the past That might give you some ideas for scholarships to apply for.

A follow up question that my mom has: If a student is dependent on their parent to pay for college, can they be independent for health insurance?

Thank you so much for your help! My parents and I are in so much stress nowadays because we don’t know how to pay for college but I know I am good enough to get into most of my match and safety schools and I don’t (and my parents don’t) want to sacrifice the quality of my education because of financial reasons. Plus, during college I need to save up for medical school. You guys helped a lot Thank you!

What I’m trying to do is- I’m trying to minimize my parents’ contribution. We are not super rich, probably the middle of middle class. My sister will be going to college two years after I do, and I don’t want to put my parents under pressure

This question is kind of confusing, but I’ll try to provide some information:

  • You never HAVE to be on your parent’s insurance plan, even now while you are in high school. If they don’t have a family plan of some kind through an employer or purchased somehow, then obviously you can’t stay on their plan in college.
  • Most colleges won’t let you attend without some kind of health insurance. When you pay student fees, you get access to the campus health service, but that is just for minor stuff like sore throats. Most colleges require you to have medical insurance to cover things like hospitalization. Lots of colleges ask you to apply for a waiver and prove you have insurance, or else they will just bill you for their plan when you get your tuition and fees plan.
  • If you aren’t covered by your parents’ plan, you will have to get health insurance some other ways. Sometimes colleges have a policy you can buy through them. Generally they do NOT include the cost of this policy in the cost of attendance on their website or in their net price calculator. The costs I’ve seen are generally between $1500 and $2500/year.
  • Other choices are to buy a plan directly from a health insurance company for yourself, buy one through the “marketplace” for the Affordable Care Act, or maybe apply for Medicaid if you are really low income.

Regarding paying for college, the colleges that meet need (so you won’t have to pay much if you are low income) are pretty hard to get into. Only a small number of the schools in the US meet need. And of those that do, many of them are not “need blind”. So if you need a lot of aid, you are less likely to get in (so having high stats can help with that).

Other things students often do:

  • Live at home and commute to a nearly 4 year college.
  • Go to community college for 2 years, then transfer to a 4 year school for the last two years. Some community colleges have agreements with 4 year schools to accept their students if they meet specific GPA requirements.
  • Assuming you are a US citizen or green card holder, you likely will need to take out your federal student loans for most college options if your parent’s are low income.
  • You may be eligible for Pell grants if your family is really low income.
  • Sometimes students take a semester off (maybe more than once) to earn money to get through college. Low income students usually work some hours during the school year – sometimes with work study jobs on campus, and often work a couple of jobs in the summer to earn money as well.

Would having a work study AND a part time job affect my efc? I want to pay the most I can for college while saving for med school (i don’t want my parents to pay a lot). Or should I just get a private job like tutoring if I have a work study as well?

What I understand is: no job/priv. job + work study = less money for personal stuff, higher financial aid
part time job + work study= more money for personal stuff, lower financial aid

We don’t know what kind of FA you are eligible for. When you fill out your FAFSA, you have to list your (student’s) income and assets as well as your parents’. The student is allowed to earn a certain amount of money (about $6300 IIRC) before it affects your financial aid. However, if it is still in the bank the next time you file FAFSA, it is an asset and that too will affect your federal aid.

Some people get no federal money at all based on their parents’ income and assets while others get Pell grants and subsidized loans and qualify for work study. Most people who qualify for Pell grants really need the money to pay for the term they are currently in, not saving it for med school. It is really more important not to build up debt from undergrad than to try and save money.

I’ve read through a couple of your threads. You could go the ‘merit aid’ route like at Alabama. You’d then get tuition paid and you’d only have to cover room and board.

If your parents are middle class, it’s not likely you’ll qualify for federal need based aid like a Pell grant. You would be able to take a $5500 loan, but why do that if you have $10k in earnings. You don’t need to try to move funds and qualify for need based aid if you get merit aid. You’d also probably be eligible for a lot of aid in your home state of NJ. You don’t have to go to Hopkins to get into medical school.

In our experience, if you have some money and can pay something, then the best way to minimize your cost is to select a relatively inexpensive university. There are a very large number of universities with good premed programs.

In another thread you mentioned that you live in New Jersey and are interested in premed. If this is correct, then you have very good in-state public options for undergrad which you should definitely consider.

You should run the NPC on every university that you are considering applying to, and definitely include your in-state schools such as Rutgers and NJIT.


I’m going to start with some questions.

  1. What year are you in HS?
  2. How much can your parents contribute ANNUALLY towards your college costs?
  3. What are your SAT or ACT scores, and your GPA.
  4. Why is your state of residence?
  5. Are your parents low income?

Now some frank comments.

  1. Honestly...it seems like every student posting here wants to go to medical school. That might be your goal now, but I believe 70% of entering kids with med school aspirations never actually even apply to medical school. And of those who do, all don’t get accepted. @WayOutWestMom probably has the statistics.
  2. How do you plan to earn $10,000 at Chipotle while also going to college full time as a premed major...you know...you WILL need time to study.

And now your questions from the Thumper point of view…

The BEST scholarships come directly from colleges to which you are accepted. You need tippy top SAT or ACT scores and tippy top GPA to maximize your opportunities tomget these.

Sure, you can ask…but the best reconsideration outcomes are when there is a REASON the initial award was lower.

You complete the FAFSA or whatever the college wants…annually for need based aid.

Grants are usually need based awards that do not need to be repaid.

Most important…find affordable options.

This is getting its own comment. You are from NJ. Look at Rowen where you probably will get merit aid and it’s an instate public for you. Other option, The College of New Jersey.

And what’s wrong with Rutgers assuming you can pay the cost.

What does “middle class” income mean to you? $80,000 a year income…or $180,000?

Not sure what you mean by this question. In college students have health insurance one of three ways.

  1. They remain on their parent plan IF this satisfies the requirements of the college and provides health care in the state in which the college is located.


  1. They buy the health insurance plan offered by the college.


  1. They buy an individual insurance plan off the exchange or directly from the company, but not sure why anyone would choose this option.

Please explain what “independent for health insurance” means. And why you would do that if your parents have a family plan that covers you in the state where you attend college OR you can get a plan through your college?

If you’re going to medical school (or trying to), you really should be going somewhere you won’t graduate from undergrad with loans. Medical school is a HUGE expense that you can’t really save for (unless you’re very wealthy). Students fund their way through medical school on loans, and graduate hundreds of thousands in debt.

You need to not take debt for undergrad–or, very little.

Agree with that. Finding a loan free option for undergrad is the best way you can position yourself for med school. It isn’t really realistic to save for med school if you are already struggling for ways to pay for undergrad. There are a few majors (CS or engineering) where you might get higher paying summer and/or part time work. But it is harder to maintain the needed GPA for med school in those majors, too.

Agree the advice given in #14 and #15.

Minimize undergrad debt if you plan on going to med school. Med school FA is basically loans, loans and more loans. The average debt of a newly graduated med student is around $200-250K (for med school costs only).

Besides carrying a heavy class load as a pre-med, you’re expected to be an active member of your campus and community. Med schools look at not just your stats (GPA + MCAT), but the quality of your ECs (community service, clinical volunteering, research experience, leadership roles in your activities). Working multiple jobs during college may be difficult. I wouldn’t plan on doing that.

Keep in mind that approx 70% freshman pre-meds never end up applying to med school. Of those that persist and do apply, only 40% get an acceptances. IOW, med school is always a long shot for everyone.

I’ll answer this in a different way. “What are the ways to pay for college?”

  1. Parents

Savings, current income, money they are willing to borrow (this is best determined ahead of time before emotions get involved). My recommendation is to discuss this with your parents and get a figure ahead of time.

  1. Student

Scholarships, institutional grants, Pell grants if you qualify, Stafford loans, summer work, work while in school (either work study if you qualify or non work study if you don’t).

  1. Other

Where you attend. Attending a less expensive college, or a college which doesn’t require you to live on campus, living closer to home can reduce travel expenses which are often included in the COA, and choosing lower cost options for room and board if they are available. Some universities quote a mid priced dorm or a more expensive meal plan than what their cheapest is. Sophomore year or later you can apply to be an RA which can cover some or most of room and possibly board. It is not guaranteed but a good student who shows leadership and communicates and behave well could have a chance. For some majors and some schools cooperative education programs can help finance your degree. These are most typically in engineering but some schools offer coop programs in other disciplines as well.

  1. Outside of college

There are programs that will pay for your education after you complete your education. There are some military programs such as ROTC which offer scholarships. There are school districts, typically in distressed areas, that will pay off the balance of student debt after you work for them a period of time.

That’s what I can think of at the moment. Parents, institutional scholarships and grants an student loans provide the bulk of the financing for college education. What you can’t do is expect a $60 or 70k per year institution to bring the cost down to an affordable level. It can happen but don’t expect it.

Pretty much Yes to all of the above. Scholarships are based on merit. Some universities are more generous with scholarships than others, so it really pays to shop around. The most generous scholarships, I’ve found are the big schools in the deep south.

The idea behind financial is for the parents to pay tuition. If your parents are wealthy, there’s obviously less financial aid. If they’re poor, that’s where grants come in. Grants are basically free need-based money to help pay some of the tuition. The amount of the grants depends on your financial situation and the college. If money is a concern, then go for all the scholarship money that you can, or spend a couple of years at community college. You’re always welcome to appeal a financial aid decision at any school. The worst thing they can do is say no.

Loans are the most common way to pay for school. The most you can take out in a federal loan for a 4 year degree is $27k.

Yes, the FAFSA is done annually, but, after you already filled it out once, all you really have to do is update the financial information and submit it.

There are alternative ways of paying for college. Some employers offer tuition assistance. ROTC is a good option if you don’t mind spending a few years as a military officer after you graduate.

I am running the NPC right now with my dad, and it asks for my parent’s separate incomes, but my parents did a joint tax, what do we do?