Apply for financial aid and get a job to help pay for college

Stephanie Kinkaid Assistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center Monmouth College

As loans and grants for college expenses become harder to obtain, more students are needing to subsidize the family income to pay for everyday expenses. No longer do students have the easy ability to use loan money for living expenses in addition to tuition and fees. As a result, college students are seeking ways to not only save money, but to earn additional funds to offset expenses in addition to the family income.


Do apply for financial aid through FAFSA

You may have friends or acquaintances that have told you you will not be eligible for federal aid, but everyone should fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application anyway.

Every family is different because of number of children, income and expenses. It is worth the try. And because many colleges offer assistance in completing the FAFSA, there is no excuse to ignore this application, which can lead to grants and loan money. Apply early since the deadline is soon after January 1st of each year. Check with your college about deadlines, since each state may be different. 

Do plan your expenses in a monthly budget

Always create a monthly budget. There is no way a student can prepare for the year without knowing how many expenditures he or she will encounter. Your budget should include tuition, books, fees, housing, food, everyday items, and should leave a little wiggle room for hidden expenses. The budget should also include all income, loans, grants and scholarships. Once you know how much you need per month, finding the income will be easier.

Do look for jobs on campus early

Start asking professors, the financial aid office, and the career center the year before to find out if positions are open on campus. If you have federal work study, these positions fill up fast, so get your applications in early! If you are a new student, ask about jobs when you are admitted and when you attend orientation.

Do work full time—or even two jobs—in the summers to save money

Paid summer internships and jobs can really save the day. If you are not attending classes during the summer and winter breaks, work as many hours as you can and save. Be careful about frivolous spending, so that you have enough saved to get you through the academic year.

Do work with your college’s financial office to make payments

Most colleges provide a payment plan to pay for tuition and expenses, so break up your payments into much more reasonable chunks. The staff will be able to explain how this program works, which may help both you and your parents pay off your account on a monthly basis, as opposed to one large amount due at the beginning of each quarter or semester.


Do not overwhelm yourself

Remember that your academics come first. If you are working too many hours, your studies will suffer, and no amount of money can bring your academic standing back once it is poor. If you are struggling financially, tell your parents. They may not realize you are worrying so much. You can also discuss options with your financial aid office. The staff are often well-trained to help you search for additional grants and loans.

Do not fail to recognize the importance of networks

If you have established professional networks, these contacts may have jobs available when you are in need. If you need a job, ask friends, parents, parents of friends, professors, and your career center. Many times, word of mouth is the most effective means of obtaining a part-time job.

Do not forget about your career center

Your college’s career center often posts jobs on bulletin boards, on job search engines, on social media, and through campus emails. Career centers are a resource in locating positions on and off campus. The staff may also know of other employees who are in need of childcare, house-sitters, and dog-walkers.

Do not ignore paid internships and research opportunities

While it is true that some internships are unpaid, many are offering a wage. Ask your faculty members and the career center to see if any such positions are open. Watch your email for opportunities from staff at your college and search online for positions within your field. You are not only paying expenses, you are building a terrific resume!

Jumping cartoon

Paying for college expenses has become a full-time job in itself. Instead of getting overwhelmed, make a budget, get a job, save your money, and stick to a plan. Obtaining that college degree will pay off, so a little frugal living in the meantime will bring greater dividends to you in the long run.

More expert advice about Financing Education

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Stephanie KinkaidAssistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center

Stephanie graduated from Illinois State University and has been employed with Monmouth College since 2007. She has a background as a mental health professional and has worked with thousands of college students as they prepare for the future. Her...

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