There are numerous ways to pay for college.

It is rare for a person to only do just one thing on this list. Most people use a combination of many sources.

Work and save: While a typical student’s job will not nearly cover the expenses of school, it can go a long way toward making ends meet. Would you rather spend your college years living semester to semester depending on student loans you will eventually have to pay back with interest? Or, would you rather get a job that at the very least takes care of your food, clothing and perhaps even your room/rent?  Besides, your schooling is bound to be all the more valuable to to you since you will know exactly how much each credit cost.

While working inside your field can be great for building a career, also be aware of the possibilities presented by “regular” jobs. Being a server or a receptionist provides you will numerous chances to practice your people skills. Working in a lab or library will often give you extra time to study. A non-music job also allows one to decompress after long hours of musical work, do something different, and gain satisfaction from using one’s many other skills.

Apply for outside scholarships and grants:  Start applying for scholarships and grants as soon as possible (around your HS junior year). Don’t stop applying for such aid until you have finished college. There are all sorts of institutions out there looking to give all sorts of money to all sorts of people. Use your school’s guidance counselors and the internet to do your research. Keep in mind that even though many scholarships put a lot of weight in GPA, many others value things such as community service, writing ability, or minority background.

Do not turn your nose up at small amounts of money! Not only is that more money than you had before, you probably got it for simply filling out a form and writing an essay! Also, one more scholarship listed on your college application always looks better than one less.

College/University academic scholarships: If your grades are good enough and you possess all the desired qualities a school desires, they are bound to offer you an academic scholarship. (If there is a box on any admission application that asks if you want to be considered for scholarships, MARK THE BOX!!) Many academic scholarships are simply offered as a matter of course when you are accepted and others may have specific competitions. Some schools, for example, offer extremely large scholarships through campus-wide essay- writing contests.

Talent scholarships: As a bassoonist, you are uniquely positioned to gain optimal scholarship status in many schools of music. We are a rare breed and so many schools do not have enough of us for their ensembles. This means that the school will work harder to recruit you and often offer you more money than they would if you played a more common instrument. That said, you must be worth it. Playing the bassoon is not a meal ticket. If the school spends a lot of money on you, they are going to want results. If you come in and play a horrible audition, then you will not be offered a large scholarship.

Talent scholarships are probably the most flexible as far as amount is concerned. If the initial offer is not enough to make ends meet and you call the school of music admissions office and express concern over being able to attend their school due to financial reasons, they will often ask you to sit tight and wait a few weeks. If there are funds to be had (say, someone else has turned down their scholarship) and you have presented a valid case, then you may receive a larger offer. Flat out haggling usually leads to bad feelings on both sides.

Gifts:  When you graduate high school and you receive monetary gifts from your family and loved ones, thank them, and then run screaming to the bank. SAVE that money for college. Besides, how many schools actually let you bring a dirt bike?

Inheritance:  When a family member passes away and leaves you money, don’t disrespect their memory by wasting it. Just keep in mind that whoever it was loved you enough to take the steps to provide for your future. Grandma probably would not approve of a shopping binge in her honor. Instead, put it to good use (like college) so that one day you can go out and do great things and hopefully leave a legacy for someone just as appreciative and deserving as you once were.

Loans directly from family:  These can be the best sort of loans because they rarely come with interest. Be aware though: there may be other expectations of you. Only accept such a loan if you are willing to meet those expectations.

Loans from the government:  As far as non-family loans go, these are absolutely the best. They will always have the best interest rates and will also have the most flexible payback schedule. You qualify for student loans each year by filling out the FAFSA each year. Once it is processed, they will tell you how much loan money you may receive. If your financial circumstances change drastically after you have already filled out the FAFSA, you can go back and request an adjustment.

Once one gets started using student loans, it becomes very easy to overdo it. Student loans should be used for school expenses only. If you think you need fancy clothes and extravagant dinners, get a job. Do you want to still be paying for your undergraduate degree when you are fifty?

When given a choice, always take the SUBSIDIZED loan first. This means you will have less to pay back in the end.

Private Lenders:  These should be your last resort. Private lenders are in the game to make money. They all have different little rules designed to take your money. However, if you need the money and you are sure you can pay it off quickly, then a private loan would work just fine.

The Loan Shell Game:  If you play the system well, you can leave college with the lowest interest rates possible and with slightly less debt to boot.

Let’s say that one semester you had to take out all of your available government loans and then a private loan as well. The next semester, if you have more government loans offered to you than you need, strongly consider taking that extra loan anyway and using it to pay off your private loan. You will almost assuredly get a better interest rate and have an easier time paying it off in the long run.

This concept also applies to government unsubsidized loans. If you can take out a subsidized loan the next semester for the same or less interest rate, and pay off a previous unsubsidized loan, you will end up slightly ahead at the end of your schooling.


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