How To Pay For College Without Financial Aid

How To Pay For College Without Financial Aid

The tag price for a college education has been soaring over the past few years. Despite a number of initiatives, there is no sign of slowing down. Consequently, college students and parents are left scrambling to find out how to pay for college without financial aid. Especially, the less fortunate. Yet, they are many options available.

Pie chart comparing who pays for college education. 44%, the majority, is paid through parent savings.

So the goal for you if you get a free ride or at least spend below the national average of $30,017.

A. Grants

As a student, your first start should be the traditional way that most use to pay for college. Indeed, it’s always a good idea for students to apply for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Actually, if you forget to fill up your application, you miss out an opportunity to get free money for college.

In addition, the FAFSA also determines your eligibility for Pell Grants, which unlike normal loans, you don’t have to pay back. Literally, the Pell Grants offer up to $6,345 of assistance per academic year. That is a decent amount of money that can alleviate your financial pain as you continue to put together your financial puzzle.


Nevertheless, the federal government offers multiple other types of grants. Collaboratively, many states have grant programs available as well. Hence you should check and apply to state grant programs you may qualify for on the Education Department website.

Nonetheless, grants can be provided by other entities. They’re typically awarded based on criteria such as minority groups, gender, career aspirations, college alumni, industry, and more. So search on industry associations, look at local associations. Also, you would be avised to check with your family some companies have grants available to support educational programs.


B. Scholarships

This is probably the most widely utilized method by students. That is because there is plenty of scholarships available. Truly, irrespective of your grades, background, country, social status, or field of study, there is a scholarship for everyone out there. Even though, it is often time-consuming to find the right scholarship, prepare the required materials, and apply; the payback could yield big rewards. In some cases, it can offer you a full ride. So be patients and put in the maximum effort in your search.

Some campuses offer scholarships for new and returning students based on discretionary criteria, so they don’t get advertised as much as major awards with wide eligibility. In addition, various organizations provide scholarships to students, and these awards can make a big dent in your tuition bill.


How to find scholarships

Arguably, finding qualified scholarships can be foiling and tedious but here are some places to start looking:

  1. Internal scholarship:
  • Visit your financial aid office. Talk to your school guidance.
  • Your employer or your parents’ employers.
  • Ask around you(friends, family, neighborhood)

2. External scholarships:

Nowadays, thanks to technology they are many platforms that aggregate scholarship opportunities, then match them with your profile. Those websites, streamline part of the process for you. Here are some example:

In addition, check local organizations, ethnicity-based organizations, professional organization websites, associations, and community-oriented structures.


C. Win a contest

Some competitions can be very lucrative. Moreover, winning a contest helps build a strong resume. On top of that, it has been proven to be a strong catalyst for career development. That is because it would set you apart in the job market irrespective of your career aspirations.

There is basically a competition for anything, any field, regardless of your academic level, and all year long. as long as you have a competitive spirit, you can basically leverage that option to secure a smooth and money stress-free college experience.

How to find a contest

Many online platforms aggregates available competitions from all over the world. Yet, the best online platform is student competitions.

Also, many colleges have launched competitions and some of them are opened to external students. So, you should check college websites or connect with students from different college to see what is available.

In addition, connect with your professors and advisors.

Finally, some companies, professional organizations, local associations always have a call to action for students to solve a pressing issue face by the company, the industry, or the society.


D. Work-study

Work-study is another opportunity for students to earn money to pay for college through part-time jobs. Surely, It enables college students to gather work experience while in college. This is why it is so important for college students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form as early as possible, as some schools award work-study funds on a first-come, first-served basis.

But, there are some fews things to keep in mind if this is an options that you want to consider.

  • The Federal Work-Study program does not guarantee you a job.
  • Jobs can be off or on campus.
  • Work-study funds are not applied directly to your tuition.
  • Work-study jobs may be limited.
  • Federal Work-Study is not guaranteed from year to year.
  • Pay may vary.
  • Hours worked may vary.
  • Work-study earnings are removed from your FAFSA calculation.

E. Employer-based sponsorship

Typically, this option is widely available through a tuition assistance program. Basically, a company you work for that offers a tuition assistance program will cover partially or totally the cost of your bachelor’s or master’s degrees or certificate programs depending on the cost and the company. However, you may be limited in your choice of institution, major, schedule, or classes. Even though the program is usually geared towards employees and their family members, some companies have a program in place where they hire students right from high school and pay for their college education.

Things to keep in mind

  • Loyalty

Some companies would ask you to commit to working for them for a certain number of times after graduation. Normally, this is the employer insurance. Yet nowadays most companies have eliminated that requirement.

  • Grades

Some employers would impose some tight conditions such as grades and the choice of the course.


F. Live off-campus

Rent is the largest part of your budget. Typically, if you leave within 30 minutes from your campus chances are your accommodation could be very affordable. So take your time looking for a cheap yet secured accommodation that meets your budget. Moreover, forgot all the unnecessary amenities. Really, all you need is a small nice comfortable room, excellent wifi internet, great roommates, and good access to public transportation.

How To Save Money In College

G. Start a side gig

Some of the most valuable companies in the world were launched in college. More there’s no limit to what you can earn enough money to pay for your college expenses including your tuition fees. A college environment is a perfect place to start a side gig think of crafts, clothing design, snacks, food, music lessons, writings, and tutoring.

Freelancing/remote work is very popular among college students.


H. Crowdfunding

Among most sources, this is has gained popularity among people looking to raise enough money to pay for college. Even Though social media is widely credited for scaling the process, it has been around for ages. For example, in some communities, they come together every year to fund the education of the most promising kid of the land.

Crowdfunding is just raising a small amount of money online/offline or online and offline from multiple people by convincing them to fund a cause, in this case, your education. Usually, the pool of people (Crowd) may not know each other.

There are three types of crowdfunding:

  • Reward crowdfunding: You reward contributors with a product sample or a gift if they give a certain amount
  • Debt crowdfunding: Instead of getting a bank loan, you get a loan from crowdfunding and then repay it in some cases at a zero % interest rate.
  • Equity crowdfunding: You give your contributors equity in the potential future earnings in exchange for cash 

Offline crowdfunding

It starts with people you know such as your friends, family, colleague, neighbors, community members, philanthropists, companies in your communities, and any person of good faith. To achieve maximum result, come up with a compelling story, and don’t shy from sending well-elaborated letters detailing your case to your target.

Online crowdfunding

Nowadays, you can find a vast array of online platforms facilitating crowdfunding. But, you will get more success with a platform that gears mostly for social causes like:


I. Choose the right school

They are many colleges out there that offer amazing programs that help students get free rides such as fellowships, stipends. So you can entirely focus on your education without any distraction. Take your time and look around.

  • Alice Lloyd College
  • The Apprentice School
  • Barclay College
  • Berea College
  • City College of San Francisco
  • College of the Ozarks
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Deep Springs College
  • The United States Air Force Academy
  • The United States Coast Guard Academy
  • United States Merchant Marine Academy, The United States Military Academy
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Warren Wilson College
  • Webb Institute
  • Faith-based Williamson College of the Trades
  • Weill Cornell Medical College — New York, New York
  • New York University School of Medicine — New York, New York

But, there is also graduate programs that offer the same benefits such as:

  • The Media Arts & Sciences at the MIT Media Lab
  • Isenberg School of Management of the University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Texas A&M University
  • Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business

Community colleges

It is a good practice to start with a community college first. Before going into a 4 years college. Indeed, there is a steady growing movement of providing free tuition in community colleges across the entire country. Yet, even without that community colleges are typically very affordable especially for residents.

Directional schools

Normally, you have state universities and then you have directional schools. A directional school is any school with a description of where it is geographically located These kinds of schools tend to devote more of their money to classroom teaching, rather than to faculty research.

State School

Actually, going to a public school in your home state can help you save thousands off your tuition bill over four years. Nonetheless, if you really wanna get out of your state. Reciprocity agreements between your state and others in your region can help you get in-state or otherwise reduced tuition.

Check which reciprocity agreements

J. Join the military

Considering military enlistment to help you pay for school is smart. But there are strict eligibility requirements in order to receive financial assistance in obtaining your degree.Reserve military members and those on active duty may be eligible for tuition assistance, which means that the military pays up to 100% of your tuition. The eligibility requirements vary by branch and the total cannot exceed $4,500 per fiscal year


k. Pay Cash for Your Degree

The best way to pay for college is to utilize your own money. As a result, it is always advisable to start saving early. cut-down your expenses, take another job. Truly, one of the best methodologies is to start savings at least 2 years before starting school. That gives you enough time to build up a good savings net to cover at least some of your living expenses.


Paying for college is stressful, for you as a student and for your parents. Most people end up losing hope of getting any college education because of the cost. However, they are many options available and the smartest option is to combine many options for a smooth and easy college experience. Consequently, give yourself enough time between your acceptance letter and your starting date at least 01 year to put together a comprehensive strategy to raise enough funds. Good luck.

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