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Graduating high school? Tips to make college more affordable

Every year, millions of students head off to college to pursue higher education. A college degree can help you earn a promotion, find a job in a new field, become more marketable and it will often increase your earning potential. However, your degree can also put you thousands of dollars into debt.

If you’re planning to pursue higher education, try keeping these six money-saving tips in mind:

1. Research and compare college costs

Take your time to research and compare costs so you can choose an affordable college, such as a community college or state school.

Even if a more affordable school doesn’t offer your intended major, you can start there, then transfer to the school of choice at a later date – possibly saving thousands in tuition and fees. Just make sure to research the ability to transfer your education credits from one school to the other.

2. Ask your employer

If you are currently employed, your organization may offer tuition assistance, grants or other perks if you are a student. Check with your human resources department to see if you qualify for any benefits from work.

Also read: Scholarship Success: Heroes dressing up as heroes

3. Fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will help you determine how much federal aid you are eligible to receive. The FAFSA incorporates your expected contribution towards your degree and calculates your financial need.

4. Seek help from your school

Contact your school’s financial aid office. Most schools have a dedicated office to help you navigate grants and scholarships, and they may have specific options for that school too.

Also read: Scholarship success: Meet the McDonalds!

5. Find scholarships and awards online

Use online scholarship websites to search for available, legitimate awards. You will need to spend time writing essays and filling out applications, but it will be worth it if you are awarded additional funds to help pay for your education.

Many scholarships and grants are available for students in specific career fields, so conduct searches for general opportunities as well as those for various categories suitable to you. Foresters Everyday Money has financial coaches that can give you some leads on quality scholarship sites.

6. Consider low interest student loans

If you must take on student loans, be honest with yourself as to how much you can afford to borrow. You will be paying interest in addition to the principal, so you want to be able to pay off the loans in a reasonable time, typically less than 10 years.

Be very cautious with student debt and strive for subsidized, federal loans that offer lower interest rates than private loans.

Did you know that Foresters Financial offers scholarships? Each year, eligible members and their family who can qualify for up to $8,000 in support, for up to 4 years, for higher learning. Students need at least 40 hours of community service and a minimum GPA of 2.8!

It pays to be active in your community, so start volunteering now to prepare for the next Foresters Financial scholarship application deadline!

In addition, Foresters Everyday Money can help you with additional ideas for getting a handle on higher education costs.

Also read: Scholarship success: Getting daddy out of the delivery room

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Michelle Budzien

Michelle Budzien is an Accredited Financial Counselor for Foresters Everyday Money, providing unbiased financial coaching and education with the goal of improving the financial well-being of Foresters members. Michelle enjoys writing about all aspects of personal finance such as budgeting tips and tools, debt management, understanding credit, analyzing future needs, and industry trends.