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Five Interesting Ways to Help Pay for College

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Creative ideas can help ease the financial burden

It's no secret that college costs have skyrocketed. So, if you're stressing about how you're going finance your child's higher education, you're not alone. There is hope as long as you and your college student are open to pursuing some creative ways to help pay for such an important life transition.

By this point, you've probably already gone through all the financial aid packets, and you've been saving for your child's education with a 529 plan. But there are thousands of ways, both big and small, to help pay for this massive expense. Here are five you'll need to consider when sending your child to college:

Request more financial aid.

If your teen has already entered college and you've already received financial aid but your family situation has changed significantly as the result of a situation such as a divorce or being laid off from your job, then you may actually qualify for more aid. If this situation applies to you, don't wait; contact your financial aid office and make them aware of your updated status. You just might receive precious additional aid dollars.

Apply for unconventional scholarships. If traditional scholarships have eluded your son or daughter, then he or she might be eligible for a less traditional scholarship, such as the two below. (Check out http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/unusual.phtml?WT.mc_n=%20SM_PR_Blog_MT for more unusual scholarships.)

One example is the David Letterman Scholarship. This scholarship is for creative but average-GPA telecommunications students at Ball State University, Letterman's alma mater. The winner receives a $10,000 scholarship, the first runner-up, $5,000 and the second runner-up $3,333.

Another is the Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to high school seniors with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. One $5,000 and three $1,000 scholarships are awarded.

Take advanced placement courses.

If your youngster is academically advanced and still in high school, he or she might consider taking college-level advanced placement courses and exams. These can help earn college credits and save money, too. If the student's test scores are excellent, he or she may acquire enough credits to advance to higher-level courses. Having to take fewer required college classes translates to less cash outlay and perhaps an early graduation.

Transfer from a community college.

Sending your teen to a community college for the first two years can dramatically reduce the overall cost of your student's education. If your child maintains a solid GPA, he or she can transfer to an excellent university and earn a more prestigious degree, without the costly price tag. It's important to determine if the four-year institution your child plans to transfer to will accept community college credits.

Take advantage of discounts.

A laptop computer is an expensive yet necessary part of college life today. Don't hesitate to take advantage of discounts and promotions aimed directly at students. Similarly, look for discounts from online retailers on books and supplies.

These ideas are just starting points, and with a little more research and planning, you and your child can likely help supplement college costs. Asking your teenager to do some of the legwork might help him or her feel both responsible and self-reliant. If you need more help financing your child's higher education, ask one of our representatives for assistance. A little planning can go a long way in terms of college dollars and cents.

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