How to Pay for College (When Broke)

How to pay for college

One of the main things to think about when going to college is figuring out how to pay for college. Some people already have college savings or they have the money to pay for it.

However, many others do not have the money saved so they are going to have to take a loan out for college.

This is a big deal because you will be going into debt for the first time in your short life.

You probably started thinking about it once you were in upperclassman and started thinking more about college. This may seem like a very overwhelming thing to do.

All that you probably had to do in high school was maybe pay for things like a car payment, gas, cell phones, etc. You may not have even had to pay for that much depending on how much your parents helped you.

This means that you’re going from paying for simple things that you want and need or maybe nothing at all to paying for your entire college tuition for four years which can range up to $100,000 or more. But don’t let these thoughts in these numbers overwhelm you enough to think that you can’t do it.

Pay your way Through College

There are so many people that are paying their way through college. Many more past students have successfully paid for their own college.

The pros outweigh the cons because a degree will help lead you to a successful life and career.

You may have to think about money more than other students at your school who are not so financing their own way through college.

This means you’re going to have to think a lot about how you’re paying for tuition, room/board, books, and much more.

You will also have to think about how to pay for things just to live while you’re in school.

  • Money to go out with a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Sporting events like basketball, baseball or football
  • A night out with your friends clubbing or going to a restaurant
  • Dorm room essentials like toiletries, snacks, and personal hygiene items

If you were not getting help to buy stuff for your dorm and items needed for college then you have to pay for it all.

The question is how are you going to pay for it all?

It’s all very doable and you’re completely capable of doing it. You simply just need to think it through and start preparing early.

Many students have a job while in college so they always have cash available.

Here are some examples of things that you can start doing if you’re financing your way through college.

One of the first things that you can do is just be excited about college in general. You don’t want the money aspect to get in the way of having a good time and getting a good education.

Everyone has the opportunity to go to college, even if you aren’t getting any help.

College Scholarships

This is one of the main things that can help you relieve so much stress about the money for college. A college scholarship is something that you can start thinking about in High school.

Start looking for scholarships in your senior year in high school. This site How2WinScholarships can help you find different scholarships to apply to for college.

To get as many scholarships as possible you need to have decent grades, SAT scores, involvement in the community, and much more.

You don’t need to be the perfect student. You need to show that you care and that you’re going to be a good college student.

Just simply try the best you can in school and try to stay involved.

This means you should be doing these things all the way through your senior year not just when you’re an underclassman.

You can also start looking earlier than your senior year of high school so start looking your junior year for scholarship opportunities.

I know a family and the dad got a notice from his life insurance company that they are giving out $1,000 to students of parents with a policy.

My friend’s dad just kept a spreadsheet of scholarships they found so they can apply for them during senior year.

There are so many scholarships and people just don’t even realize they exist. This is free money so start looking and applying.

The first place that you can start looking for scholarships is at your high school, the university you will be attending, your city or town, your county, your work, and your parent’s work.

Apply for anything and everything even if you think you’re not going to get it.

Use How2WinScholarships which is a website that will help you find online scholarship money for school.

My Journey Paying for College

All that you can do is try your best and apply to every scholarship you can find.

Believe me, some of the scholarships that I received to go to college were because nobody else even applied.

  • I got a scholarship simply because my dad is a firefighter.
  • A different scholarship I got because I am a girl in my county going to a state school.

Things like this can really make a big difference and help you take out fewer loans. Fewer loans mean less debt.

I am paying for college on my own with no loans or help from my parents.

I managed to get enough scholarships to cover my entire first and second year in college.

No loans to pay back. Yipee!!!

I did not get these scholarships because I am crazy smart or any better than anyone else.

I got these scholarships because I took the time to apply for every scholarship that I could.

You just need to do the research like I did to get the scholarship money.

Show me the money!!!

I’m an average student and I made it work, so can you.

This is where all of your hard work and dedication from high school pay off and help you get the college education you deserve.

Grants for College

Not only should you apply for scholarships you need to also apply for grants.

Grants are similar to scholarships because you don’t have to pay them back.

The difference is that scholarships are usually based on academics, a talent or something that you’re skilled at doing.

Grants can be based on just financial aid or other family situations.

Grants are a little bit harder to find but you can find them you just need to look.

  • The main way to get grants is by filling out the FAFSA form.
  • Once you fill out FAFSA the college that awards your admissions will send you a financial aid letter to tell you if you are eligible for any grants.
  • Know your grants which include:
    • Federal Pell Grants: largest and most common source for grants
    • Academic Competitiveness Grant: college freshman and sophomore
    • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants: help low-income students
    • TEACH Grants: good for students who agree to teach 4-years at an elementary or secondary school
    • SMART Grant: for college juniors and seniors which is based on merit and need
    • State Grants: contact local state grant agencies to see what you can get. Here is the ultimate guide by state

Grants also tend to be more money than some scholarships.


FAFSA is one of the most important things that you can do if you are self-financing your college.

Simply filling this out gives the opportunity to get free money from the government.

Not everyone, who is self-financing college has parents with a low income which I completely understand.

If your parents have a lower income, then you definitely have the opportunity to get a decent amount of money from FAFSA.

You can fill out the FAFSA form at the Student Aid site.

Also, your FAFSA confirmation is usually used in all of your scholarship applications which can help with any scholarships that you apply for.

Filling out FAFSA is usually also the only way that you can get grants from your actual university.

After exhausting all free money options if you still need to take out more money getting a Stafford Loan will be your next option.

Basically, every college student should fill out the FAFSA, but especially students who are self-financing their college.

This has nothing to do with academics or anything else it simply has to do with financial need. You can get what you need financially if you just do the work.

College Loans

Loans Pay for College

Obviously, if you were paying for your own college you are more than likely going to have to take out some loans.

This is definitely something that you want to talk about with your parents or a financial advisor.

This will probably be the first time that you are taking out a sizeable loan. You will likely be taking out a loan for thousands and thousands of dollars.

This is very common, and a lot of people have student debt so don’t worry about it. Just make sure that you are doing the research and taking the time to get the best loan options.

You can talk to you your parents, relatives, teachers about how to deal with loans and how to make the best decisions.

Adults close to you have taken out several loans in their lifetime, whether it was student loans, car loans, and home mortgages.

Nobody assumes that you’re going to figure this all out on your own.

Just make sure that you were doing the research and taking the time to get the best loan options and make sure that you were picking the loan that best suits your goals.

This is a big life decision and it is OK to ask for help.

Best Student Loans

  • Check out Credible to find a list of lenders to use
  • Sallie Mae offer loans for undergraduate and graduate students
  • College Avenue offers a full-range of loans for college
  • Ascent Loans is best for undergrads that do not have a cosigner


The last piece of advice that I can give to you is to have a job throughout high school.

Try and get a job when you’re 16 whether you only work a couple of hours a week or not.

Saving money from a minimum wage job is going to help you.

I worked at a grocery store in high school and it ended up paying for my car and everything that I needed for college. This money also helped with my textbooks and some of my tuition.

That money was very helpful, it would have been tough if I did not have this money I saved.

It’s not like you need to have a full-time job or have a job that pays $15 an hour.

You can do anything as long as you have a typical high school part-time job.

Having a job will definitely make you feel better financially and help you get the things that you want and need for college.

A job will help you to save money for your first semester or two of college.

This helps you because you can focus on getting adjusted instead of having to immediately find a part-time job.

Some online jobs that may help you make more money for college include.

  • Dog sitting services such as Rover pay very well so sign up and start making some extra cash. You actually have to like dogs to do this job.
  • Swagbucks is one way to make money.
  • You can do Survey Junkie to make extra cash in high school.
  • If you are good at writing or English then be a proofreader or freelance writer.


Overall, there are so many different things that you can do to help yourself finance college. Many people do it every year, so can you.

Not having help with finances for college is not an excuse not to go because of all the points we discussed. When you get to college you will feel a sense of gratitude for your hard work.

You will appreciate college more because you worked hard to get there and you are paying the cost. I hoped this helped you and made you a little more confident about paying for college.

You looking to get a loan for college check out how do college loans work.

Recent Posts