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Top Seven Mistakes to Avoid in Paying For Your College Education

Dec 4, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

There’s no way around it: you are probably going to have to take out a few expensive student loans to pay for college, unless you’re very lucky or have a lot of rich and generous relatives. While student loan debt is not an easy burden for anyone to bear, you can make things slightly easier on yourself if you know enough going in. Here are a few mistakes it’s crucial to avoid when paying for your education.

Assuming the college financial aid office has your best interests at heart

College financial aid offices work for the college, not for you. They often present their financial aid packages as “awards” that have been tailor-made to suit your family’s individual financial situation. While there may be a few grants in there if you’re lucky, there’s no guarantee that your college has given you access to all the low-interest federal aid you’re entitled to.

Instead of accepting the aid your college offers without question, treat it like a negotiation. Most colleges have an appeal process that will allow you to request more aid in funding. In addition, do some research and see how much you’re entitled to for federal loans. You can check the Federal Student Aid website to learn how much you’re entitled to after your FAFSA has been processed.

Not looking for every opportunity to get grants and low-interest loans

Grants aren’t just offered through the FAFSA and your college. You can often find free money for education through your state or local government, nonprofit organizations, religious organizations and even corporate donors. Check with your workplace and the places of work for immediate family members, as well as any other religious, community, veteran’s, nonprofit or other groups you belong to. There may be scholarships there you can apply for, and every bit of free money you earn is money you won’t have to pay back later.

Not filling out the FAFSA


Some people believe they earn too much to qualify for federal aid—so they don’t bother with the FAFSA at all. This is a mistake. Even if you think you make too much to qualify, you may be surprised. While the federal programs are based on financial need, there are several loan programs that offer low-interest, fixed-rate loans to people with a range of financial histories. Don’t pass up an opportunity to take a low-interest loan in place of a high-interest, variable-rate private loan.

Adopting the wrong attitude about private loans

It’s more common than you’d think for people to adopt a “worry about it later” attitude when it comes to taking out private loans. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll land a lucrative job just out of college that will help you pay off these loans easily. Most people don’t. These students loans come with high interest rates that can change at any time—and they generally don’t go down. You can’t consolidate these loans, which makes them even more difficult to deal with. It’s important not to take out these loans lightly—make sure you’ve exhausted all your options for grants and low-interest loans through your state, local and federal governments first.

Using a credit card to finance tuition

If you think private education loans are difficult to deal with, try dealing with a large amount of credit card debt. Financing some of your tuition with a credit card may seem like a good idea at the time, but read the fine print—that 0% interest rate is likely to jump at any minute, and you could be dealing with that debt for years.

Paying for college is rarely easy. And in the game of college tuition, the only party that will have your best interests at heart is you. It’s sometimes necessary to go the extra mile to make sure you get the best deal possible. Research private and government grants on your own, be sure you’re getting the most federal student loan help possible, and don’t take the first offer your college makes for you—and hopefully you should be able to decrease the student loan burden when you graduate.


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