The Daily Gamecock

How to Pay for College 101

300 dpi Michael Rice illustration related to how teens spend high school graduation gift money. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)
300 dpi Michael Rice illustration related to how teens spend high school graduation gift money. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

1. FAFSA is your friend

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka the FAFSA, is an easy way to ensure that you're getting all the financial aid possible. By simply completing the form and renewing it each year when it's released in January, your financial standing will be evaluated so that you can be awarded any possible grants and loans from the government. Even loans administered through the FAFSA come with a much lower interest rate than private student loans, saving you money in the long run. Schools like USC also use FAFSA information to decide other need-based aid. USC's priority deadline for the FAFSA is April 1, and they recommend getting your form in early to ensure you meet the deadline.

2. Free money is the best money

Many college students forget that they can keep applying for scholarships once they arrive on campus, but there are plenty of ways to keep racking up awards long after you leave high school. Sites like Unigo, Niche and Chegg will send you regular emails of scholarships that fit your interests and qualifications based on your profile. Many private organizations also offer awards. Even specific schools and colleges within USC offer scholarships that students in those majors can apply for. It's also important to know the terms of your previously awarded scholarships to make sure you meet all requirements to stay eligible every year.

3. Save. Save. Save.

New shoes and nights out with your roommates are great, but they're also an easy way to burn through a lot of money fast. When earning a regular paycheck at a part-time job, internship or summer job, set a limit as to what percent of that money you can spend each pay cycle. You can leave that amount in your checking account to use, and the rest can be put in a savings account to start earning interest. The next time the tuition bill comes, that savings account serves as a solid golden goose.

4. Work-study brings the opportunities to you

Many students worry about whether they'll be able to find a job in a new area when they get to campus and whether a job is something they can balance with their class workload. One of the best solutions that keeps the income coming is to take a work-study job. While you have to qualify for work-study, there are a wide variety of opportunities available at USC. Many of the positions involve office work within specific schools and colleges, and this is a great chance to connect with professors and staff that may prove very valuable down the road. These jobs are also great for students without transportation to off-campus businesses or cramped schedules.

5. Cut extra costs

College is an expensive place, but there are still ways to trim down your expenses. When living off-campus, the brown bags of elementary school can make a triumphant return. It can be more economical to brush up your cooking skills rather than pay for meal plan. While having a car can be a nice plus, they're also expensive investments. In urban settings like Columbia, walking or using a bike can be cheaper options for transportation. Public transportation like the Comet and USC shuttles can supplement your options to get to farther-off locations on a budget.