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6 Tips to Help You Pay for College This Fall

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Preparing for college comes with so much excitement. Many fun things are to come, from meeting new friends to cheering in the stands on Saturdays. However, the large price tag of tuition, books, housing, and other fees is daunting to many prospective college students.

Luckily, there are several ways to pay for college that’ll lighten the financial burden of your studies. Without further ado, let’s review a few ways to pay for college.

1. Apply for scholarships

The easiest way to pay for college is with scholarships. Students can earn scholarships for all sorts of things, ranging from stellar academic or athletic performance to participation in certain clubs and organizations.

Colleges, the government, and outside organizations all provide scholarship opportunities. Most schools offer merit-based scholarships to students who excel academically — some states have similar scholarship programs. Athletic scholarships are also huge for many schools.

The most appealing aspect of scholarships is that they don’t need to be paid back as long as the student maintains a minimum GPA and/or participates in the organization that granted the scholarship.

2. Apply for grants

Grants are another great way to pay for college. Like scholarships, grants don’t have to be paid back. The key difference between grants and scholarships is that most grants are need-based. With that said, some aren’t.

The most well-known grant for students in the United States is the Federal Pell Grant. This need-based grant is meant to make education more accessible to students from lower-income families.

Even if you’re not sure if you’ll qualify, you should still apply for need-based financial aid. You can do this by filling out a FAFSA application.

3. Find a work-study program

Work-study programs offer a great way to work off your tuition. If you’re unfamiliar, these federally backed programs provide on-campus jobs to students that demonstrate a need.

Some examples of work-study jobs include:

  • Front desk attendants in different offices
  • Gym attendants
  • Librarians
  • Research assistants
  • Book store clerks
  • Cafeteria clerks
  • Interns and teaching assistants in different departments

The value of working in jobs on campus is that they are designed to be flexible with your class schedule. As part of the university, the managers for these various roles recognize that studying is the student’s full-time commitment.

It’s also worth noting that these roles are paid hourly, but the hours you can work are capped based on how much need each specific student demonstrates.

5 Best Ways to Pay for College

4. Secure an on-campus job 

Since work-study programs are often limited to students who can demonstrate a need, some students are left looking for other work options on campus.

Students not qualifying for work-study programs should still inquire about different departments and organizations to see if they are hiring.

These jobs overlap with the ones we mentioned as examples of work-study jobs. Sometimes, on-campus jobs pay hourly, while others pay through a scholarship.

5. Find a flexible job

As we mentioned, the value of work-study programs or an on-campus job is typically flexibility. However, if those aren’t an option, you may need to find an off-campus job with a flexible work schedule.

Jobs in food service or retail often have flexible hours suitable for students, so those are great options. Picking up odd jobs as a babysitter, pet sitter, Uber driver, and so forth is a great way to make some cash without committing to a rigid work schedule.

A freelance job is another great way to make money with a flexible schedule. For example, you could become a virtual assistant or take on blog writing jobs. These flexible opportunities allow you to earn money from the comfort of your own home on your own schedule.

6. Take out a loan

If none of the other ways to pay for college pan out for you, taking out a loan is an option. Since loans need to be paid back with interest, many students hesitate to seek this option.

If you decide that taking out a loan is the right option for you, it’s important to understand the different types of available loans. Specifically, make sure you understand the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Subsidized loans are backed by the government, meaning they don’t accrue interest until after a student finishes school. The only downside to subsidized loans is that they are need-based and aren’t accessible to everybody.

Unsubsidized loans aren’t backed by the government, so the terms and eligibility are a bit more flexible. Flexibility is a double-edged sword because it also means fewer restraints on when interest can start accruing.

Other tips for making college more affordable

Another way to make college more affordable is to find ways to cut your expenses. Here are a few money-saving tips!

Get smart with housing

On-campus housing can be very expensive. A great way to save some money is to get a place off-campus with a few roommates.

Many students move into a dorm during their first year to get acquainted with the campus and then move off-campus to save some money during their remaining years.

Rent your books

College textbooks can be pricey, so one way to save money is to rent your textbooks. 

You may be able to rent textbooks from your school’s bookstore, but if that is not an option, Chegg and Amazon also have book rentals available.

Consider community college

Although going away to college can be fun, there are several benefits to starting at a community or junior college. For starters, community colleges are typically much more affordable. You could save thousands of dollars by spending a year or two at a local school.

Even if you decide to go away for school, you can take classes from the local community college when you go home for the summers. This is a great way to save money while knocking out gen-eds.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of ways to pay for college, but sometimes you have to get a little creative to keep your finances in check.

Whether you lock down a full ride or you’re paying for college with a few different funding options, knowing the options available will help you make smarter financial decisions as a student.

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Author: Jeremy Moser

Jeremy is co-founder & CEO at uSERP, a digital PR and SEO agency working with brands like Monday, ActiveCampaign, Hotjar, and more. He also buys and builds SaaS companies like and writes for publications like Entrepreneur and Search Engine Journal.