How to afford college

One of the biggest questions when applying for colleges: “How can I pay for this?” Tuition can seem daunting, but there are lots of ways to make a private college education work for you. Here are some tips from Seattle Pacific’s Student Financial Services team, our resident experts in all things financial aid-related.

1. Fill out your FAFSA

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Even if you don’t think you’ll receive any aid, complete it anyways. You never know what aid you can get if you don’t try!


2. Outside scholarships

Apply for outside scholarships! Think of your search as a part-time job. Once you have a couple of essays written, you’ll find that you can use some or all the same content again for other essays.  If you spend an hour completing an application and receive a $500 scholarship, that’s a great hourly wage!


3. Don’t underestimate local scholarships

Shoot for local scholarships! These tend to receive fewer applicants, so you have a better chance at receiving the scholarship.


4. Watch those deadlines

Pay attention to all deadlines. Missing one may cost you money, either by missing out on limited financial aid or missing an application deadline.  Consider keeping a financial aid calendar with deadlines so you are on top of applying for as many scholarships as you can and meeting all financial aid deadlines.


5. Take advantage of your summer

Work in the summer!  Sure, we all want to hang at the pool or with friends, travel, or vacation with the family, but money you make in the summer can pay down your first year’s costs, buy books, or help with getting that powerhouse laptop.


6. Part-time job

Look for a part-time job. Many studies have shown that working part-time improves school performance and increases your chances of finding a job after graduation, all while giving you some extra cash. Check out SPU’s online job search database, Handshake.


7. Talk with us!

If you or your family has a job loss or medical bills or other costs that make paying the tuition bill difficult, contact Student Financial Services.  SFS has been able to help hundreds of students who have found themselves in a tough spot. We want to help you graduate!


8. Don’t fear the loan

Be cautious and a learner about student loans, but do not be afraid. Federal student loans are a helpful option for many students. Some loans can be “waived” or forgiven, and some calculate your payments as just a set percentage of your income.


9. Ask for help

Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, mentors and other individuals you know about scholarships or other financial aid to help.  Their clubs, jobs, or associations may have funding that could help you with the last few dollars to make it work!


10. Choose the best payment plan for you

Look into the different payment plans SPU offers. Often these plans help students and families spread their college bill over several months. Your bill becomes a monthly payment, not a large single payment.


11. Prepay tuition

Consider a tuition prepayment plan. If your parents (or grandparents) can swing it, tuition prepayment plans are a great way to pay tuition now that can be used in the future. Most states have their own plan (GET for Washington) and the Private Colleges 529 plan is another good option.


12. Take more credits

Take as many credits each quarter as you can reasonably manage – at the same price and graduate sooner!  Most schools have a full-time tuition rate for a range of credits. For example, SPU bills students the same amount for 12–18 credits.  If you take 18 credits each quarter you can graduate in just over three years, saving two quarters with of tuition!


Did you know that last year SPU took the historic step in making college accessible and lowered tuition by 25%? This also lowered future SPU students’ tuition for years to come! Learn more about Tuition Reimagined.

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