Can I Pay for College Without Working?

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The cost of college tuition continues to go up, which makes it more difficult to pay for college. Working while in college may not be an option for everyone. If you are working on getting into graduate school, it is essential that you keep your grades up so that you can qualify. You should carefully consider all of your options before taking out a student loan, but that may be an option if you find that you cannot work while going to school. Here are some options to consider.


Scholarships are the best way to pay for your education. Each semester you should apply for scholarships through your university. Most universities will offer merit-based scholarships if you maintain a specific grade point average. You can have full tuition or half tuition scholarships if you can maintain a high-grade point average. Additionally, your department may offer scholarships, especially for juniors or seniors who need extra funding for senior projects.

In addition to scholarships offered by the university, you should apply for a wide variety of private scholarships. Your department office may list grants and scholarships that are available to students in your major, but you should go beyond that list. Many of these scholarships look at things other than grades and may require an essay, service hours, or a video to apply. Smaller, local scholarships may be easier to get, but if you take the time, you should be able to find several that you are qualified for. Some businesses may offer scholarships if you are willing to sign with them to work for them for a few years after you graduate from college.

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are a great resource if you qualify for them financially. Unfortunately, you need to put your parents’ income information on the application. This may limit your eligibility even if your parents are not in a position to help you pay for college. You need to show adequate progress in order to continue to receive a Pell Grant. If you are working on a graduate degree, you will not qualify for a Pell Grant.

The application for a Pell Grant is the same as for a student loan. It does not hurt to apply for either option. You do not have to take out the loans if you end up not needing them, but the Pell Grant is money that you do not need to worry about repaying and it can cover a portion of your tuition and other education expenses.

Research Grants

Some majors may have research or project grants available to help with funding. Usually, these are offered to juniors or seniors or graduate students. You may need to be recommended in order to apply, and you should speak to your professor or faculty adviser to learn more about what you can do to qualify for a research grant. This is similar to having a teaching assistantship, but it may have additional flexibility and not require a set number of hours a week that you need to spend working on it. 

Summer Jobs

If you do not want to work during the school year, then you need to make the most of your summer and winter breaks. This may mean working two jobs over the summer full-time so that you can save enough to cover your expenses through the rest of the year. It means that you need to make the most of your summer job and choose jobs that will pay more than minimum wage. Waiting tables is a good way to bring in good money, but you can also tutor or do other jobs that offer more than minimum wage. If you manage your money carefully, you may be able to make it with the work you do over the summer.

Student Loans

As a last resort, you can use student loans to help cover your college costs. If possible, you should limit your student loans to the federal student loans because you may be able to qualify for income-based payments or student loan forgiveness programs once you graduate. It can be difficult to graduate and have a large student loan payment that you need to make each month. It is important to realize the responsibility you are taking on when you take out student loans. Be sure to pay attention to the financial aid counseling, you are required to take when you take out the loans. You need to manage your money carefully to avoid making financial mistakes in college since they will follow you into your adult life. 

Be Sure to Take Advantages of Tax Breaks

You may qualify for additional tax breaks like the Hope Tax Credit or the American Opportunity Tax Credit. These will not provide money for your expenses but allows you to deduct some of those expenses from your taxes. Using this may help you manage paying for school. Talk to an accountant if you have questions on the best way to claim these credits. They cannot be claimed together and there are very specific rules about which expenses qualify and your income levels. Be sure to review them carefully before you claim it.