How I Pay for College

Thank you to College Ave for partnering with me on this post! 

I always knew that I wanted to go to college. I can’t remember a point in my life when I was not at least a little bit worried about how I was going to pay for college. As the time came in high school to apply for colleges, the worry grew into a real stress.

This is true for so many college students, especially for those who are planning to spend 4 or more years in school. I attend a very expensive private university. Honestly, paying for it sucks. It’s difficult. It’s stressful. It’s scary.

Did you know that 1 in 4 students did not attend their first choice college because of the cost? I didn’t know that, but I was definitely one of those students.

Check out this infographic of more information about paying for college, collected from over 1,000 students interviewed with College Ave and Chegg:

Money is a big factor in college, and it is a huge problem for many college graduates because they didn't understand how to manage spending money on their education! College students need better financial information!

Luckily, there are a lot of tools to help you get through this. Here is how I personally am paying for my college experience, hopefully some of these situations will apply to you and help you through this process:

Family & Savings

I remember there were a few holidays when I was younger when my grandparents would give me checks to put in my savings account for college. I was upset, I wanted toys! I wanted presents! I wanted something I could use now, not later!

Once I turned 16, I started begging for my presents to be in the form of money that I could put in my savings account instead of actual presents. That paid off.

My parents were also incredibly generous and offered to pay for about 25% of my schooling. I am so incredibly grateful for them for doing that. I know that not every student is as lucky to get that from their parents and I definitely do not take it for granted.

While I am living on campus I am working 3 jobs to pay for all my own groceries, clothes, toiletries, and everything: so I am very thankful that I don’t have to be worried about paying for all my tuition at the same time!


As I was preparing to graduate high school, my graduating class had the opportunity to apply for a bunch of scholarships provided by our school and our community. I applied to a couple and was truly lucky to receive a memorial scholarship set up by a couple who’s son had planned to attend by college but passed away before he could. They personally submit this scholarship into my school account each year and I am planning on mailing them a letter halfway through my schooling with details on my education and how they are helping me.

Pro tip: Apply for a lot of scholarships! Even the ones that you don’t even think you are qualified for or will receive!

headset1I applied for a theatre arts scholarship that had the chance of offering me between 5% and 40% of tuition covered. I applied for this as a Stage Manager, so I figured that all the scholarships would go to Actors and I wouldn’t get anything. Boy was I wrong!

I am so insanely grateful to say that they offered to cover 50% of my tuition cost. That’s a half ride! Hearing that news was so incredibly amazing, I felt like this huge weight of having to pay for college was being lifted off my shoulders.

That amazing scholarship, paired with a few smaller scholarships that I received, helped lower my cost of college so much that going to my expensive private university costs me less than if I went to the cheapest 4 year public school in my area.

Don’t underestimate the power of scholarships. Look for them early, and continue to look for them throughout your time in college.


I’ll be honest with you, loans are scary. I have had family members who have had to work their entire lives to pay off the loans they took out for college. Luckily, this won’t be the case for me.

Since my parents and my savings are paying for 25% of my tuition and my scholarships are paying for about 55% of it, I only have to take out enough loans to cover 20% of it. I took these out as Federal loans.

moneyThere are a couple of options to take out loans. You can take out federal student loans through the government, which is what I did. You can take them out through a bank, or have your family take them out through a bank and pay them back. Or you can go with a private student loan lender such as College Ave Student Loans. College Ave is working to simplify the loan process and make it easier for college students to understand how they are paying for their education.

Private student loans can be a good option as they can sometimes include lower interest and monthly payment plans while still helping you to make sure you pay them off at a reasonable time.

Luckily, with most loan options you do not need to pay them back until you are no longer taking at least 12 credits of courses (which is considered a full time student), which is great news!

Make sure to take the time to weigh the pros and cons for taking out loans and what system would work best for you. Need some help figuring out how long and how much it would take for you to pay back your loans? Check out this loan calculator provided by College Ave Student Loans to get a general idea.

To pay back my loans, I am working 3 jobs while in school.

Other Options

If your family cannot afford to help you out, you have applied for scholarships and loans, and you have not been able to gather enough money to pay for your tuition, don’t fear. There are still other options out there for you. Unfortunately, I do not have first hand experience to provide regarding them since I didn’t need to use them, but please do look into them further and see if they will work for you!

  • The FAFSA (fill this out even if you don’t think you qualify, you never know!)
  • Grants
  • Work Study
  • Tax reductions
  • Go to community college (or a less expensive university) for two years and then transfer to the university of your choice.

Don’t let the fear of having to pay for the next step of your education stop you from taking that step!

Do you have any tips, tricks, or ideas for students searching for ways to pay for college?



How I Pay for College
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13 thoughts on “How I Pay for College

  • August 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Great post! I’m not in college anymore but I’ll be sure to pass it along 🙂 It’s nice to hear from the point of view of someone that DOESN’T have their parents pay for everything. No offense to those that do (if anything I’m envious!), but someone that only has to buy their own groceries doesn’t know what it’s like to really “pay for college,” hahah.

    • August 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      I agree, I’m super envious of those who’s parents are able to pay for their schooling! More power to them 🙂
      Unfortunately with the continuously rising tuition rates in American Universities it’s becoming more and more common that people have to take out student loans 🙁 not fun!

  • August 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I should really get into the habit of applying for scholarships more often, but it can seem so helpless sometimes. Glad to know you were ale to get money to help pay for your education!

  • August 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Wow, what great information you have shared! I’ve got a 15 y/o and college days will be approaching us quickly! Thanks for sharing!

  • August 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    You’re one smart chica! If only I’d known more about all my options back when. I was a first generation student so the learning curve was already high.

  • December 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Hey Dani,

    Always appreciate the in-depth explanations and tips from you 🙂

    I also blog for college students, specifically helping them save money on everything from pizza to textbooks (I work for, which was created for that very purpose)!

    One post that I think your readers will find helpful, related to this post, is this:

    Please feel free to pass along our information to your readers and I will be on the lookout for your next post! :]


  • January 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    What are your favorite sites to look up and apply to scholarships? Or do you have any recommendations? I’m trying to find as many websites as I can so I can spend the rest of my junior and my whole senior year applying for them (:

  • May 4, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Sorry, but this was no help at all. It had no information at all. I don’t see the point in stating how you pay for your college when this was nothing but a list of things I could find everywhere else. It wasn’t any help. Am I missing the point of what this article was supposed to do? If you were wanting to help explain options, why didn’t talk to people who had gone to junior college or used FAFSA. I just needed to comment on case I’m missing the point here.

    • May 4, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Hi Danielle!

      Thanks so much for your feedback and for checking out my blog!
      It feels like eons ago that I wrote this post but I’m glad that you found it. I totally understand where you’re coming from. The point of this post was to answer a question that I have gotten many times from readers about how I pay for college, while providing information that I discovered through my learning how I was going to pay for it. A lot of this information here I wish I had known about before jumping into the process, and I hope that this gives the chance for my readers who are beginning the process of managing their school finances to learn about that information. Things such as: the different types of loans, that there are other options such as the FAFSA, Grants, and Work Study that they can look into for more information, and more.

      While the majority of my blog posts focus on being similar to a step-by-step guide helping my readers fix a problem that they are having, this one differs a little bit by focusing more on my personal story and journey. It is less of a “How YOU can guide” and more of a “How I did story” which is why it is “How I Pay for College” and not “How to Pay for College” or “How You Can Pay for College.” I like to view this post as more of a “hey, I worked really hard for all of this and I did it. It’s not impossible. You can too! Read my story to inspire you” post.

      I hope that helps clear some things up for you 🙂


  • June 14, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    I don’t have a clue as to how the scholarship thing works. My son received 2 for the small college where we live. He says he wants to take a break. Is there a time limit as to when they can be used?

    • June 14, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Hi Patrica,
      Congratulations to your son for receiving 2 scholarships, that is awesome! I totally understand that it can be confusing. The terms of each scholarship can be different depending on where he got it from, so I would contact the place where he got it from (was it from his school? Was it from a company?) and ask them if the scholarship would still apply if he took a gap year off before attending school. I’m sure that they would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have.


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