According to the federal government, it’s primarily your responsibility—and your parents’—to pay for your college education. The idea is to ensure that those who can afford college pay their own way, freeing up aid money for those who can’t afford to pay.
That all sounds great, but what if your parents won't pay for college? Having parents who won’t pay for college can make things a bit more complex, but don’t get discouraged—you still have options for funding. Lets walkthrough a couple options on how to pay for college without parents help.
Apply for Federal Financial Aid
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should always be your first step when looking for financial aid for school. It’s the gateway to all federal financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans. A combination of all three types of federal aid could pay for your schooling completely and possibly even help with living expenses.
It’s true that you’ll need your parents’ financial information if you’re a dependent student—and you should never guess at the numbers—but if your parents refuse to fill it out or help you pay for school, you can talk to your school’s financial aid office.
In some cases, such as abusive situations or other extenuating circumstances, they can file a waiver that will allow you to be considered an independent student. If that happens, your financial aid will be predicated on your income and need alone—possibly meaning more financial aid for you.
Apply for Scholarships
Scholarships are an excellent way to get money for college. They’re competitive but well worth it if you’re willing to put the effort into competing for them. Thousands of scholarship programs exist, and each of them has their own criteria for eligibility.
Some are offered to students in a particular major, or to those who hail from a certain school district or locale. Others might be based on ethnicity or gender. Still others are offered for academic or athletic achievement, or to the winner of a contest.
Most scholarship programs require an application package consisting of a written essay on a topic of their choosing, as well as personal or professional references and sometimes even a transcript or recommendation from a school official. They all have annual deadlines as well; it’s critical that you take the time to understand each program you’re applying to, what it requires, and when you’ll need to submit your package.
Go to Community College to Save Money
It might not be the advice you want to hear, but if you find yourself in the difficult position of having to pay for your own college education, you may want to take a hard look at the colleges you’re choosing. While some schools are top of the line in terms of one major or another, there are usually plenty of schools that can offer a solid education in that field.
Before you get your heart set on a private education at an expensive school, look around and see if there is a less costly school that can still fit the bill. If you’re a new freshman, most of your first year or two will be prerequisites and lower-level classes anyway; many of those are offered at community colleges for much less money and transfer very easily.
Attending a less expensive school, at least for the first two years, and then transferring to your school of choice later is an excellent option if you’re trying to pay for school on your own. In fact, many students do exactly that, even if they do have financial aid packages and parental help. You could save thousands each year and still end up with a degree from your first-choice school.
Get a Job While You’re Taking Classes
Another inconvenient but valid option is to work while attending classes. Most college towns contain an abundance of flexible part-time jobs that you can mold around your class schedule. Universities across the country have also taken into account student debt and offer their own part-time jobs. In order to truly pay for school, however, you may need to get a full-time job and work your classes around your job.
In the last few years, many schools—including top-tier ones—have begun to offer night classes or even online courses that hold the same credits and weight as classes attended in person. That means you can still work a regular daytime schedule and take online or night classes in your spare time.
There can be many reasons why your parents won't pay for college. Some are simple and come down to financial ability; others are emotional or far more complex. Whatever the story behind your personal situation, you don’t have to give up on getting a college education. Do some research and find the best option—or combination of them—for your personal situation. You can still go to college, with or without help.