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You’ve put in the hard work and have decided on your university or college of choice. Congratulations on this big achievement!

Going to college can be a great investment! But it’s also a big one. College is expensive and, unfortunately, it’s not getting any cheaper. Because of rising tuition costs, students (and parents) are racking up debt more than ever. 

On top of that, terms are often thrown around when talking about college payment plans making it all feel a bit… intimidating. There are several different types of loans, scholarships, grants, work study programs, and part time job opportunities. Here, we break down some of the ways you can pay for college, how to avoid increased debt, and alleviate some of the stress.

Financial Aid

FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, gives students access to grants and low-interest federal loans. The application is open to anyone, regardless of income-level and  is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on tuition costs. However, space and eligibility is limited so the earlier you get your application in, the better. The earliest you can start applying is October, and the deadline for 2023 is June 30th. You must file this application for each year you will be attending school.

Grants are free money! And who doesn’t love that? Usually, grants are given based on financial-need. If eligible, and as long as you meet certain requirements, grants do not need to be repaid. You’ll first need to fill out the FAFSA application to determine if you are eligible toreceive grant money.

More free money! Each year, almost $10 billion in financial scholarships is given to students every year. Scholarships are merit-based and you can apply for as many scholarships as you’d like. And the best thing about scholarships is the endless amount of scholarship opportunities from several different associations, companies, state governments, and other types of organizations. Check out and apply for Peterson’s World’s Easiest Scholarship or browse Peterson’s Scholarship Database. Our database allows you to search over 1.9+ million scholarships, grants, and fellowship opportunities. If there’s money to be had, you’ll find it there. 

Hard earned money the old fashioned way

Earn your tuition money by working part time before requesting a large loan with a high interest rate. Working part time will not only decrease your college debt and your need to take out a loan, but you’ll gain work experience which will be important as you enter the workforce and begin looking for career opportunities. 

Work study programs
Work-study programs are offered through FAFSA and give you the opportunity to earn money and pay for school. However, opportunities within this program can be very rare. If you are lucky enough to be accepted into the program, and if your university participates, you can find work both on and off campus. Most schools will require you to find, apply for, and interview for work-study positions. Going through the application and interview process can be a great learning experience!

Note: work-study funds are not applied to your college tuition so be mindful of saving appropriately when you are paid.

Part time work
Working part-time is a great way to fund your education and gain experience in the workforce. To avoid burnout, find something that has flexible hours so that you can balance your class and study schedule with your work schedule. Some part time job ideas could be: server/bartender, ride-share driver, receptionist, sales/retail associate, dog walker, virtual assistant, nanny/babysitter, or fitness Instructor.


Financial loans are sums of money that you will have to pay back over time with interest. There are several federal and private loans available for you to choose from. But the two most-common college loan options are:

  • Subsidized Loans are offered through FAFSA. The benefit of taking out a subsidized loan is that the Government actually agrees to pay the interest accrued on your loan while you’re attending school and during your post-graduation grace period. Not paying interest can save you thousands of dollars.
  • Unsubsidized Loans are loans that should be your last choice and should only be used when necessary in small amounts.. With unsubsidized loans, you will accrue interest while you’re in school. What’s more, once you graduate, you’ll continue to pay more interest over time until the loan is paid off.