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How to pay for college: A student’s guide

 Written by    February 8, 2016

financial aid

College is expensive — here are a few strategies for managing your money:

1. Take your core at home

Basically every degree program in the country requires a set of “core” or General Education courses. If you’re going to a public school, you can take these almost anywhere in your state and transfer them back to your school. Ohio State, for example, has branch campuses all over Ohio. Taking a few gen-eds in the summer at a local campus can save you tuition and housing money — just make sure it transfers before you enroll!

2. Priority deadlines are not a suggestion

Make sure your know the deadlines for scholarship applications for your university! Most places will have a ‘priority’ or ‘recommended’ deadline, as well as a final one. You should always apply before the recommended one if you want a competitive chance at getting financial aid. The priority deadline at Ohio State for the FAFSA and Special Scholarships is February 15, so get on that!

3. Do your taxes early

Whether your parents/guardians are helping you pay for college or not, you will need to coordinate all sorts of financial data for filing out your FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid). Many scholarships, grants, and loans will not even look at your application until you’ve filed a FAFSA, so make sure to do it on-time, even if you don’t expect any federal aid.


4. Apply for scholarships

This is really the most important part. You can’t get scholarships if you don’t apply. Remember that full-ride scholarships are rare, so unless you win the college-student lottery, you’ll need several smaller scholarships to cover your bills. Unfortunately, this means you’ll be spending most of February and March filling out applications, but it will be worth it in the end!

To start you out, here are some places you can look:

You should also look for scholarships in any special-interest areas you have, even if it’s not your major. You can get scholarships for music, performing arts, foreign language learning, fitness, and a lot more!

5. Housing

If you’re going to college far from home, housing can sometimes also be a financial burden. Make sure you account for this when you plan out how you’re paying for the next semester. Believe it or not, you can get scholarship for this too! While this money is taxable, it can still be a huge help. At Ohio State, you can get housing assistance by applying for the Stadium Scholarship Program or the Alumnae Scholarship Program, through the Army, or by becoming a resident advisor or  community advisor.


6. Books

College textbooks are expensive. One semester can cost you anywhere from $200-1,200, so you’ll need to spend smart on this part of your educational budget.

Tips to saving book money:

  • Make sure you need the book. Sometimes professors don’t update their syllabus, so double check that you need the book, that you’re getting the correct book, and if you need anything extra like lab manuals or online access codes.
  • Rent, if possible. This is particularly useful for courses not in your major, when you will only use the textbook one semester. Most stores that allow you to “sell-back” books will give you only a fraction of what you originally paid, by renting you guarantee exactly what you’re paying.
  • Shop around. Unless it’s a custom published book, you don’t need to buy your books at the campus bookstore. I personally like using Slugbooks to find the best price, but there are several sites online you can go to in order to compare prices.


That’s my advise for paying for college. It may be a hard process, but push through and you’ll be grateful in the end! Let me know in the comments what tips were useful and which weren’t, and what you think is the best way to pay for college.


And as always, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @FutureBuckeyes.



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James McGrath

Academics, Advice, Campus Life, Classes, finals, fitness, Home, Honors & Scholars, Housing, midterms, nutrition, Personal, Recreation, School Spirit, Student Life, Textbooks, The Future, Why Ohio State?, Work

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