How I pay for college

How I pay for college

We all know that college comes at a cost (and the price tag can be pretty high) but it shouldn’t discourage anyone from seeking higher education. My name is Carmen De Alba Cardenas and I am a second-year journalism student at ASU. I am 19, and a Sun Devil Storyteller for ASU Student Life. 

When it came to my college education, I knew paying for it was going to be a challenge. My family is very low income due to my father being the sole provider, and we had no college savings. Thanks to help from great advisors at my high school and ASU resources along the way, I’ve been able to create a plan for affording my education.

If your concerns about paying for college are just starting to set in, don’t panic. I have four tips to help you plan ahead and stay on track to fund your degree. 

File your FAFSA.

Too many times I have heard fellow students complain about the price of college but when I ask them, “Did you file your FAFSA?” the most frequent answer is “no.” Completing the application (which opened this week) seems intimidating but I promise, it’s not so bad, and it’s totally worth it. You never know how much aid you’ll be given, and if you don’t want to accept everything you’re offered, you don’t have to. It’s worth it to find out how much can be covered through financial aid. 

If you don’t know where to start, you can visit ASU Financial Aid and Scholarship Services website for clear instructions and help filing your application. 

Apply for scholarships.

One of the many reasons I love ASU is because we have so many resources right at our fingertips. The Scholarship Portal makes searching and applying for scholarships super easy. It helps narrow down your search results to get to the awards you qualify for.

Don’t forget to look locally, too. There are so many local businesses and organizations that are looking for great students to give their money to. A Google search for “local scholarships” could open a whole new world of opportunity. Look for scholarships on your college’s website and ask your academic advisors — they have information on scholarships, internships and many more award opportunities.

In high school, our academic advising office sent a monthly newsletter full of scholarship and other award opportunities. Then, during my first year at ASU, my First Year Success Coach would email me information about awards that I qualified for. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Get an on-campus job.

I wish I would have applied for a job sooner my first year because it would have made my financial burden much smaller, but not everyone is able to work while in school. If you are, I highly recommend an on-campus job. They’re your best bet for extra income. The online job search enables you to search hundreds of jobs offered on all ASU campuses

And don’t worry about being over-scheduled — ASU student workers typically work about 20 hours per week, and there are limits on how many hours they can work per year. This should help you focus on being a student first. Some of these jobs are even eligible for Federal Work Study, so if you qualify (you have to submit your FAFSA to find out) you could be earning money that you can use toward your tuition. If you’re still looking for extra income after reaching your maximum hours at an on-campus job, try one of these side hustles that are great for college students.

Learn to save and budget your money.

In my experience, this is easier said than done. ASU is within walking distance to many restaurants and shopping centers, so trust me when I tell you that the temptation is there. But knowing that you’re saving money to pay for your education is worth it, I promise. 

My advice is to save at least a third of what you earn and learn to budget the remaining amount until your next paycheck. Maybe a coffee every day after class isn't the best way to use your money — try limiting yourself to one coffee per week or eating out only on Fridays. These small habits will help you save more of your money in the long run. 

I hope these tips help you start getting on track financially and help you start or continue planning how you’re going to pay for school. If you have any questions, get in touch with ASU's Financial Aid and Scholarship Services, or check out iGrad for more resources.


 Story by Carmen De Alba Cardenas, Sun Devil Storyteller

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