Whether you’re preparing to go to college for the first time, or you’re thinking about continuing your education, it’s important to know what resources are available to help you. It’s also important to not “break the bank.” Education may be expensive, but it’s possible to pay for without going into massive amounts of debt. I’ve written a short list of “key terms” when planning to pay for a college education.

Financial Aid

http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov/F4CApp/index/index.jsf

Is a great website to estimate how much money you’d receive for financial aid. Remember that it’s just an estimation of how much money you may qualify for financial aid. Keep in mindthat you do have to pay financial aid back, with interest. Financial aid is intended to be used for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. It can also be used for computer and childcare expenses. However, financial aid should not be used for other expenses such as food or to pay phone/cable bills.

Grants

Grants are primarily need-based compared to other merit-based scholarships. Usually there is qualifying criteria and are specific to students, subjects, and degree level. A good resource for grant information is http://www.collegescholarships.org/grants/

Scholarships

Scholarships are beneficial because you do not have to pay them back. It’s important to note that not all scholarships are for tuition; some are specifically for transportation or for books.

There are a lot of websites out there that let you search for scholarships, however, most of the time you have to fill out questionnaires and annoying forms. If you have the time and patience, websites like scholarships.com and fastweb.com offer important information.

But for people who don’t have the patience, it is possible just to Google phrases such as “scholarships for public policy” to find scholarships available to you.

Fellowships

Fellowships are usually available for advanced study or research. Fellowships may require a time-commitment or completion of a training program. However, if requirements are met, fellowships can be a great way to pay for school expenses.

Emergency Plans

Always remember that we can’t control what happens in our lives. It’s important to have some emergency funds saved up in case something happens. May you’ll have to pay to fix your car, or deal with a family emergency.

Credit Cards

Credit card particularly scam students in college. Some students have to put their basic needs such as food or housing on a credit card and since they do not have enough money to pay it off, interest keeps building up. It’s important to use credit cards with caution.

It’s a bad habit to think that you can pay off debt when you graduate. Especially with today’s job market, getting a job after graduation is not a guarantee. Plus, there could be other expenses that you’ll need to provide for, and by that time you could be thousands and thousands of dollars in debt.

Budgeting

It’s essential, as always, to develop a budget, especially before going to college. The budget is vital in helping to create and determine goals and determine what can be afforded to spend monthly.

Budgeting is important to determine how much money will be earned, and spent, while in college.

As always, just giving some food for thought, questions and comments are greatly appreciated.