How To Pay For College: An Ultimate Guide To Financing Your College Degree

You’re excited to take a major step in your life and go to college, but you’ve got the nagging worry most students face: How do you pay for college?

Though it’s usually worth it, college is one of the most significant expenses many people take on in their lives. Both online and in-person colleges come with many inherent costs upfront and over time. With books, materials, fees, room and board, and not least of all, tuition, the cost of higher learning quickly adds up.

If you’re considering online colleges but unsure of how you’ll pay for your schooling, this is your ultimate guide for financing your college degree without breaking the bank. Here are some great ways to get the heavy lifting done so you can lift that graduation cap.


Scholarships are academic financial aid awards given to students (or to colleges or universities on the student’s behalf) to offset some or all costs associated with schooling. Many public and private organizations fund scholarships, from state and local governments and nonprofits to private companies and individuals. Some schools even offer their own scholarships to qualifying students.

A scholarship may be awarded for many reasons. Most people know that excellent academics and athletic achievements earn scholarships, but these are far from the only options. In addition to these, scholarships are awarded for things as varied as community service, hobbies, extracurricular activities, group identities (especially those that are underprivileged or less represented), employers, family or personal military membership, low socioeconomic status, and more!

Keep in mind that not all schools accept all scholarships. When considering schools and scholarships, be sure to check with each school you are interested in to discern whether or not specific scholarships are available.

Fill Out FAFSA

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s a United States government program that allows students to apply for government funds and grants to pay for higher education.

To apply for FAFSA, students must submit the following information (or that of their parents or guardians):

  • Social Security number
  • Alien Registration Number (for students who are not US citizens)
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other earnings records
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if any)
  • Records of untaxed income (if any)

The amount that FAFSA provides to applicants is determined by subtracting the applicant’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the Cost of Attendance (COA) at the chosen school. The EFC is a calculation that uses the applicant’s tax information to determine what they or their family can reasonably afford to pay for schooling. The COA covers tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, costs related to disability and child care, and more.

To get started on your FAFSA, go to to learn more.

Apply for Work-Study

If your school has a physical campus and work-study programs available, you might also be eligible to find a part-time job on your college campus through FAFSA. This would allow you to earn money toward your education while also gaining work experience from a convenient location.


Student loans are a popular way to fund education, but be careful about borrowing money for schooling. While college degrees are useful, many people find themselves deep in debt after college with loans that take years to pay back. Students must pay back loans with interest after graduation, whereas scholarships and grants don’t need repayment. If possible, make sure to consider all other financial aid options before applying for loans.

A Federal Perkins Loan is one of the more common federally subsidized student loan packages. It’s available to undergraduates and offers up to $5,500 per year and up to a total of $27,500. Graduate students can qualify for up to $8,000 each year and a total of $60,000. Students begin paying within nine months of graduation and repay their loan over 10 years for most Federal Perkins Loans.

In addition to Perkins, there are a variety of more forgiving and flexible federal loans available. A private student loan, which a private financial institution offers, ought to be a student’s last resort. A private loan provides far fewer protections for borrowers, and students who go with them do not have the benefit of forbearance or repayment plans based on income, both of which are offered by federally subsidized loans.

Non-Traditional Funding Sources

Scholarships and loans aren’t the only options for funding your education. For instance, many employers offer some form of tuition reimbursement. Employer tuition reimbursement programs allow your employer to invest in your education by covering a portion of your educational expenses. You get help paying for your degree, and your employer gets a more trained and experienced employee. Often, these programs will be limited to certain degree programs, especially those that are relevant to the work you do for your employer. Research what options are available from your current or potential employer to see if your degree program is covered by their policy.


College is a significant investment, and the numbers can look overwhelming. But there is always a way to finance your degree, even when you are economically less advantaged.

As you thoroughly review your financial aid options, be sure to use TopOnlineCollege to compare and contrast your potential online schools to find one that not only offers the programs you’re looking for but also fits within your price range.