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Tips and Tricks to Fund a College Education

  • Author: Heather Cowherd, Media and Research Coordinator - WKU Department of Student Financial Assistance
  • Author: Friday, December 1st, 2017

With the cost of education continuing to increase each year, many students find themselves asking the question, “How can I pay for college?”

Whether you are planning to attend college for the first time or are currently a WKU student, you may find yourself searching for different ways to fund your college education.

When exploring different ways for financing your education, consider these three tips listed below: 

Tip #1: Complete your FAFSA as early as possible!

As of October 1, students have been able to start completing their 2018-2019 FAFSA.

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and can be completed online at www.fafsa.gov. This free application allows you to apply for federal and state financial assistance that can help you with paying your college expenses.

You and your parent(s) (if applicable) must complete a new FAFSA each academic year in order to apply for certain federal and state aid programs such as the Pell Grant, Federal Stafford Loans, and Kentucky’s College Access Program (CAP) Grant. It is recommended that you fill out your FAFSA as early as possible since many need-based programs have limited funding—this means that funds typically are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. For example, for the 2017-2018 Academic Year, CAP Grant funds were exhausted on February 14, 2017. This means that any student who completed their FAFSA after February 14 could not receive a CAP Grant since all funds had already been awarded.

In addition, if you are using federal loans, you should be aware of how much you have already received or used in federal loans and federal/state grants. This is because there is an aggregate limit on how much you can utilize in student aid. For example, the maximum amount that a dependent student can borrow from the government in student loans is $31,000. This aggregate limit is for the student’s entire undergraduate academic career.

For more information about how to fund your college education by using financial aid, view The Guide to Federal Student Aid.

Tip #2: Search & Apply for Scholarships

Another tip to help you to fund your education is to apply for scholarships.

WKU has several institutional scholarships for incoming freshmen who plan to attend the university beginning Fall 2018. In order to apply for WKU’s Academic Merit and Targeted Award scholarships, first-time freshmen must complete the following steps by February 1, 2018: 1) Apply and be admitted to WKU, 2) Complete a TOPDollar Scholarship Application, and 3) Submit all supporting materials. For specific information regarding first-time freshmen scholarships, click here .

If you are a current WKU student and are planning to return to WKU as a full-time student for the Fall 2018 semester, you can apply for a Returning Student Scholarship. The deadline for completing the scholarship application is February 1, 2018.

In addition to applying for institutional scholarships, you should speak with your program of study about possible departmental scholarships.

Are you in a sorority? Have you been inducted into the honor society? If so, you may want to speak with your organization about possible scholarship opportunities. Some professional and service organizations may have grants, fellowships, or scholarships for both members and non-members.

Lastly, you should search for scholarships using the Internet. There are already several websites that provide an extensive list of various scholarships, such as Fastweb and CareerOneStop.

When searching online, make sure to read the eligibility requirements to confirm that you meet the qualifications to apply for a particular scholarship. This will save you from spending time on writing an essay or completing a profile sheet for an ineligible scholarship. You should also make a list of all the scholarships you plan to apply for and pay special attention to the deadlines for each scholarship.

For more information about WKU Scholarships, click here.

To learn more about how to find and apply for outside scholarships, visit the Federal Student Aid website.  

Tip #3:  Know how to manage your money

When trying to fund your education, it is important for you to have good money management skills.  These skills will help you to find ways to save money and teach you how to spend your money more wisely. For example, instead of spending an extra $100 each month on items that you may not need, you may be able to place that extra $100 in your savings account to help you pay for your college tuition. 

Also, developing a monthly budget may keep you from overspending. The WKU Center for Financial Success offers free financial counseling services to WKU students, faculty/staff, and the surrounding campus community. These services include reviewing your WKU bill, helping you to assess your student loans, and teaching you how to budget your money. If you would like to inquire more about their services, call (270) 745-3425 or send an email to financialsuccess@wku.edu.

After learning how to take a closer look at your finances, you may discover that you need to work a part-time job during the summer months to help pay for your tuition in August or work a seasonal job over Winter break to help you pay for textbooks for your Spring classes.

Or, in order to cover any shortfalls in your budget, you may decide to apply for a private loan.

Private loans are different from federal student loans. Whereas the federal government funds a federal loan, multiple lenders such as a bank, credit union, or state agency can fund a private loan. The approval of a private loan may depend on the borrower’s credit history. To find additional information about private loans, visit FastChoice’s website.

So, hopefully these three tips will provide you with some insight on how you can pay for your college education. Also, feel free to stop by the Department of Student Financial Assistance and sit down with one of our financial aid counselors. They may be able to address questions you have about your award package or give you an estimate of your out-of-pocket expenses after your financial aid has been applied to your account. Our financial aid counselors can be reached at (270) 745-2755 or at fa.help@wku.edu.  

The content for this post is provided by the WKU Department of Student Financial Assistance. Our staff is dedicated to helping students and parents secure resources to help pay for a college education at WKU.  We strive to provide the highest level of customer service possible, and the staff in the department are held to the highest ethical standards. If you have any questions, we can be reached via phone at (270) 745-2755 or via email at fa.help@wku.edu. We also have additional financial aid resources at www.wku.edu/financialaid.

More than 20,000 students grace WKU’s four campus locations in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Glasgow, and Owensboro. For more than 50 years, WKU has offered courses beyond the Bowling Green campus at regional locations. WKU serves students at three regional campuses in Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Glasgow and Owensboro. Two of the principal goals for WKU’s Regional Campuses are to provide access to higher education and to improve the quality of life in the communities they serve.

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 Last Modified 12/8/17