For the month of May, Best Company Finance (@BestCoFinance) has been posting tips and tricks on avoiding, leveraging, and managing student debt on our Twitter account, including advice for the FAFSA, scholarships, private loans, and loan payoff. In case you missed it, here are some expert highlights and hints you can use to pay for college.

Plan ahead—way ahead

CalculatorIt’s never too early to start thinking about college, and our experts agree. With college costs so high, prospective students have to be creative and unconventional.

To cut costs, consider concurrent enrollment in high school:

“Find out if you can take college classes while still in high school. Many high schools have established partnerships with local colleges to allow students to take college-level courses. These are generally offered at no charge, or at a discounted rate, as part of the high school curriculum.”
Freedom Debt Relief

Get a clear picture of what degree you’re aiming for:

“The ‘average’ for public college is four and a half years to graduate. Because more than 50 percent of college freshmen change majors, it’s also important to talk about career selection before college begins.”
Patti Black, Bridgeworth, LLC

Pull Quote Tip from Patti Black

If you’re still young or know someone who is, suggest searching for and planning for scholarships ahead of the game:

“There are many scholarships open to elementary and secondary school students, not just high school seniors. Plus, half the scholarships have deadlines in the fall, so if you wait to search for scholarships and to apply, you'll miss half the deadlines.”
Mark Kantrowitz,

“If you are fortunate to have the foresight, think about getting involved in student clubs, sports, extracurricular activities, and community service as early as possible.”
Sylvia Wu, Keeping Up with the Changs

“The strategy with scholarships that's worked best for my students is casting a wide net . . . the most lucrative scholarships are usually the most competitive. Receiving a few scholarships, each for $1,000, is the same as one for $5,000. But it's much easier to qualify for the five scholarships that are less competitive.”
Dennis Shirshikov,

Hunt for the best deals, and try before you buy:

“The best way to minimize the need to spend excessive amounts of assets or debt on college is proper college selection.”
Jim Anderson, Making College Worth It

Apply for the FAFSA and the CSS

All prospective students should file for the FAFSA — even if they doubt they’ll be offered funding:

“Make sure you complete your FAFSA because there might be scholarships or grants available which do not consider financial circumstance as a qualifying criterion. As a result, if you don’t file your FAFSA because you don’t think you’ll qualify, you might miss out on money.”
Riley Adams,

“Even if you don't qualify for need-based financial aid, the FAFSA is the key to getting federal student loans.”
Robert Farrington,

Know what files the FAFSA will pull to qualify you for eligibility; it pulls financial records from one year prior to the October 1 opening date. For example, for the 2020–2021 FAFSA, filers who apply October 1, 2019, and on, will report their income for 2018:

“Families really need to understand how FAFSA works before sophomore year of high school. Reason: so families don't mess up their chance at getting the most grant money because they unknowingly increased their income or assets for the FAFSA calculation.”
Jim Anderson, Making College Worth It

Pull Quote Tip from Mark Kantrowitz

Don’t forget the CSS Profile:

“Some schools and states require you to fill out the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA. Don't leave money on the table and make sure to fill out both.“
Lindsey Conger,

Crowdfund your education . . . sort of

Students in a Group

Many family members, friends, and institutions can help you reduce college costs:

“Look into tuition reimbursement programs offered by local employers. For instance, a high school student who is interested in a career in broadcast journalism may be able to take an entry-level position at a local station, which will help pay for college courses.
Go local. Room and board costs can be significant. Living at home, even if for a couple of years, and attending a local school, can save big. Or, consider living off campus to share rent and utility costs with roommates.
Check into family discounts. If you have a relative who works at a college . . . it’s possible you might qualify for a family discount.
Consider the service. While not for everyone, military service is an option for some teens. If they are willing to give several years of service to one of the military branches, college classes will be covered.”
Freedom Debt Relief

There are scholarships everywhere, based on everything from your gender, ethnicity, religion, professional associations, and much more. Your parents' employer might even have a scholarship program available to you. So do your homework and leave no stone unturned.”
David Bakke,

Plan your payback

Be smart about what loans you take out. Federal loans have fixed rates, more deferment options, and consolidation plans:

“When it comes to loans, they should be a last resort. And if you need to borrow, always borrow federal loans before looking at private student loans.”
Robert Farrington,

Pull Quote Mark Kantrowitz

Ask for help so you don’t end up paying more than you need to:

“When you graduate college, meet with a Financial Adviser to review your student loan repayment plan. They will advise you if it is best to consolidate your loans, [look into] refinance options, or if you qualify for a loan forgiveness program based on your career path.”
Jacqueline Devereux, SproutCents

Take advantage of any bonus income to wipe out debt:

“Throw all windfalls into your loans. Got a raise? Birthday money from Grandma? Extra cash from a side gig? Put it towards your loans.”
Holly Peterson, Elite Retirement Strategies

Consider your post-college education plans:

“If you intend to collect more debt in graduate school, it is crucial you choose a lower cost school in undergrad. If you go on to become a doctor or lawyer, you may be eligible for special mortgage loans that take [into] consideration your extensive educational debt and high current/future earnings.”
Chelsea Mariah Stellmach, KaiZenith Admissions

Continually reassess your payment plan:

“Consider loan consolidation — carefully. Consolidation can lock in a low fixed rate, extend the repayment period significantly and lower the payment — sometimes cutting it in half. While it can help if you’re truly cash-strapped, remember it’s important to pay off the debt as quickly as possible.

If for any reason you cannot pay your student loan bill, immediately contact your lender. A lender would rather work with you to figure out some alternative payment plan than risk a defaulted loan. . . Damage from defaulting can prevent borrowers from buying a home or car or getting a job, apartment, or insurance for years to come.”
Freedom Debt Relief

College can be a gateway to opportunity, but only if you keep your finances in check. Think outside the box and search for more expert advice to keep yourself financially healthy while preparing for your future.

Top of Page chevron_right

Read Reviews for Top Student Debt Refinancing and Consolidation Companies

Was this content helpful?
thumb_up Yes thumb_down No

The Top Student Debt Refinancing and Consolidation Companies

Related Articles

Get Our Newsletter - Be in the Know

Sign up below to receive a monthly newsletter containing relevant news, resources and expert tips on Student Debt Refinancing and Consolidation and other products and services.

We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy