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The average cost of college ranges from $25,890 per year for in-state students at a public school up to $52,500 per year for private colleges.
If you don’t have this kind of money saved for college, paying for it might feel impossible. But don’t worry — there are options that could help.
Here are seven ways to pay for college with no money:
- Apply for scholarships
- Apply for financial aid and grants
- Negotiate with the college for more financial aid
- Get a work-study job
- Trim your expenses
- Take out federal student loans
- Consider private student loans
1. Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are a great place to start when it comes to paying for college, mainly because they don’t have to be paid back.
There are a wide variety of scholarships available for almost every type of student, ranging from $100 up to a full ride that could cover most or even all of your college expenses.
You might find scholarships offered by local and national businesses, nonprofit organizations, and possibly even your own school.
Students may qualify for a scholarship for merit, athletics, demonstrating financial need, joining a specific program, or other criteria. Most scholarships will require an application, which may include essays among other requirements.
If you qualify for scholarships but don’t have enough to cover your full cost of school, student loans could help fill the gap. But be sure to consider how much student loans will cost you in the future so you can budget for the added expense. See what your estimated monthly payment will be using our student loan calculator below.
Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay
With a $ loan, you will pay $ monthly and a total of $ in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of $ over the life of the loan, assuming you're making full payments while in school.
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2. Apply for financial aid and grants
If you’ve exhausted your scholarship search, applying for federal financial aid and college grants should be your next step. Like with scholarships, grants don’t have to be repaid.
Depending on the cost of the school you attend, your total financial aid and grants could add up to the full cost of attendance.
To apply for federal aid and determine your eligibility, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you provide in the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount your family is expected to contribute to your education costs.
Your EFC, year in school, enrollment status, dependency status, and school’s cost of attendance will be used to determine the aid you qualify for.
After you submit the FAFSA, your school will send you a financial aid award letter detailing what financial aid is available to you. You can then choose which aid you’d like to accept, such as grants and federal student loans.
3. Negotiate with the college for more financial aid
If you don’t have enough financial aid to cover your education costs, you might be able to negotiate with your school for more.
For example, if you have financial need, have a unique background, or can show larger financial aid offers from other schools, your school could be willing to increase your financial aid.
While your school might not be willing or able to offer you more aid, it’s always worth asking. After all, the worst they can say is no.
4. Get a work-study job
Federal Work-Study is a type of financial aid where you work a part-time job while enrolled in school to help pay for your education.
If you’re a part-time or full-time undergraduate, graduate, or professional student with financial need, you could be eligible for a work-study job. You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA to apply.
If a work-study job doesn’t fully cover your costs, student loans could help fill any leftover financial gaps. Federal student loans are typically a good place to start, but if you need more funding, private student loans might be another option.
Before taking out a private student loan, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from multiple private student loan lenders in two minutes.
Learn More: Bad Credit Student Loans
5. Trim your expenses
On top of tuition and fees, there are several other expenses you might have to cover while attending school, such as housing, transportation, groceries, and more. However, there are also ways to trim or even avoid these costs.
Just keep in mind that if you live at home or off-campus, you might need to pay for transportation or other expenses.
Learn More: On-Campus vs. Off-Campus Costs
6. Take out federal student loans
If you need to borrow money for school, federal student loans are generally a good place to start.
This is mainly because they come with federal student loan benefits and protections, such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs. You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA to apply for federal student loans.
Here are the main types of student loans you might be eligible for:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The government covers the interest on these loans while you’re in school, leaving you with less to pay off after graduation.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of financial need. Unlike subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans will continue to accrue interest while you’re in school.
- Direct PLUS Loans are available to both graduate students and parents paying for their child’s education. Unlike other federal student loans, PLUS Loans require a credit check. They also generally come with higher interest rates compared to subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
Check Out: Student Loans Without a Credit Check
7. Consider private student loans
Once you’ve exhausted your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, private college loans could be a good choice if you need additional funds. Private student loans can be used for a variety of expenses, including tuition, books, housing, and more.
Keep in mind that unlike most federal student loans, you’ll need to pass a credit check to potentially qualify for a private student loan.
If you aren’t eligible on your own, adding a creditworthy student loan cosigner to your application could help you get approved. In fact, most private student loans have a cosigner.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, be sure to consider as many lenders as you can to find a loan that fits your needs. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)||Loan terms (years)||Loan amount|
|3.34%+||2.46%+||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20|
(depending on loan type)
|$1,000 - $200,000|
|3.99%+1||1.22%+1||5, 10, 15||$1,000 - $350,000
(depending on degree)
|3.34%+2,3||1.04%+2,3||5, 8, 10, 15||$1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
|4.09%+7||2.02%+7||7, 10, 15||$1,000 - $200,000|
|4.08%+8||1.88%+8||5, 10, 15||$1,001 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
|3.75%+||N/A||10, 15||$1,500 or $2,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance
(depending on school type and minus other aid received)
|4.25% - 12.35%9||1.25% - 11.10%9||5, 15||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures