With the first days of college fast approaching, you may be scrambling to find enough money to cover the costs. According to the College Board, you can expect to shell out about $15,213 per year at a public four-year institution at the in-state rate, or on average $35,636 at a private four-year college. Worth noting is the much lower cost of attending a two-year college, including community colleges, where the yearly cost is about $2,544 for tuition only.
Tutorial: Education Savings Accounts
Aside from tuition, room and board, you (or your child) will need money for books, lab materials, living expenses and entertainment, a necessary expense, especially with "socially" rich areas of study such as business and marketing.
Even if you missed the boat and didn't start saving 18 years ago, or your teen hasn't been dutifully squirreling away every dime from those summer jobs, you might still be able to scrape together enough for college. Here are eight last-minute ways to help pay for it.
1. Consider Community College
Even if you have your sights set on a public or private four-year institution, you might consider starting at the local community college. In addition to saving money on tuition, you will probably also be able to save on room and board costs. In addition, community colleges typically offer a wide choice of class times that allow students to fit in a part-time job.
Between saving money and the chance to earn a little on the side, spending the first two years at a community college can be a smart choice before going to a four-year school. You will be able to get all the general education requirements out of the way, and a growing number of four-year institutions are accepting credit transfers from two-year colleges. Many students worry about the lack of prestige at two-year schools: don't worry, your diploma will still be from the four-year college where you complete your degree. (To read more about the benefits of community college, read Two Years Of Education, A Lifetime Of Success.)
2. File for Financial Aid
Many students qualify for some type of financial aid. To receive student financial aid, the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be filed each year that you are attending school. Even if you are not sure that you qualify for aid, it might be worth the effort. Money is available from federal sources, individual states and from many colleges. (Find out the changes made to FAFSA in 2009. Read Student Financial Aid Changes: FAFSA 2009.)
3. Start Selling
Most of us, whether teens or adults, have plenty of extra items laying around, unused or forgotten about, that can fetch a little cash on sites like eBay, Craigslist or in the local newspaper. Sell enough of these items and it can really start to add up.
One special note about shipping charges when using services such as eBay: take the time to carefully estimate shipping (you have to include shipping costs as part of your listing) or choose the shipping calculator option. It is easy to lose potential profits by underestimating shipping costs. (To read about some of the strangest things to be hawked on eBay, check out Odd eBay Sales.)
4. Get Crafty
If you are crafty, you might be able to sell your wares on an online marketplace like Etsy.com. You can sell handmade crafts, handmade crafting supplies or vintage items on Etsy and become part of a large community of artisans. Whether you make handmade soap, create one-of-a-kind greeting cards, knit baby blankets or mold pottery doggie dishes, you can list and sell your items.
Be sure to send an email blast to all of your friends telling them how to find your products, and ask them to pass the email along to their friends. This word-of-mouth marketing can really make a difference in sales.
5. Count Your Change
Did you know that a one-gallon container holds about $228.34 in coins on average? If you are one of those people who has little piles of change scattered throughout your house and car, you might be pleasantly surprised to find it is worth a couple hundred bucks. Gathering your change can be a quick way to round up some money. To make the most money, roll it yourself and take it to your bank. Alternatively, you can dump it all into a self-service coin counting machine (like Coinstar, found in grocery stores and shopping centers), but keep in mind that if you do, you will have to give up a percentage of your booty.
You can find out approximately how much money is in a container of a given size at Coinstar.com.
6. Work Overtime
If you already have a job, let your supervisor know that you are interested in overtime or picking up an extra shift. Depending on your job, this may or may not be an option; many employers have eliminated overtime because it is costly to the company. If overtime work, however, is available, or if you can cover someone else's shift, you might be able to earn a little extra income.
7. Have a Yard Sale
A yard sale can be an excellent way to both make money and get rid of clutter and things that would be more useful to someone else. It's a good idea to advertise in the local paper and put up signs indicating when and where the sale will be. If you will have any noteworthy items for sale, mention it in the advertisement. You can even ask friends and family to donate items for the yard sale; they might be happy to de-clutter while helping you earn money for college. (For additional tips, see In A Cash Crunch? Hold A Yard Sale.)
The Bottom Line
College is expensive, and there is no end in sight to how high costs might go. Reducing costs upfront is one of the best strategies for affording college - by considering a two-year college to begin your college career, and by applying for financial aid. And if you haven't saved enough, these last-minute ways to pay for college can help get you there. Taken together, it's simple steps like these that can help add to your college fund.
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