How to Begin Your College Career Without Paying a Dime

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jan 29, 2021

Jan 29, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

The average annual cost for college in America is between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. Many prospective students are understandably nervous about how to pay for the high price of a college career. But did you know there are ways to cover some or all the cost of tuition without spending a dime of your own money?

That's right! With grants and scholarships, free college is a real possibility. Read on and learn how you can attend college with no tuition payments.

Begin Your College Career With a Form

The first step is to complete the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This is the document that helps the government and prospective schools know how much financial aid can receive. Once you know your eligible aid amount, you can determine how much college will cost you personally. 

You fill out this form each year of your college eligibility. This ensures your available financial aid is based on up-to-date information. Changes to your family's financial situation can increase or decrease the amount of eligible funds.

Take Advantage of Free Community Colleges

Many states offer state-funded tuition at community colleges. Each state is different, but some of these programs are well-respected, and most allow you to transfer some or all of your credits to a four-year university. For students seeking IT careers, community colleges can provide all the education you need free of charge.

In some cases, taking your core classes during the first two years of community college can make it financially possible to graduate from your "dream school."

Grants and Scholarships

Communities, corporations, and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships based on a wide range of criteria. There is no limit to the number of scholarship applications you can submit, and a combination of awards can pay for some or all of your tuition. Some scholarships cover the cost of books and room and board, as well.

Corporate scholarships are often open to everyone, so competition can be fierce. However, the requirements for these scholarships are less restrictive than most private foundations. 

Private education scholarships are awarded based on your GPA, choice of major, or some other critical criteria to the funding source. More than $7 billion in private scholarships are awarded each year. Take time to submit your applications to as many sources as possible.

Some organizations also offer college grants. While scholarships are usually based on merit, grants are awarded based on need. If you're unsure where to start looking for college grants, take a look at 5 Popular Education Grants You Should Know About.

With a combination of grants and scholarships, you may not have to pay any money out of your own pocket.

College Is a Requirement

For nearly any job you seek, the basic requirement is a college education. Your college career will open doors for you once you graduate. If your career has hit a dead end, you might consider returning to college

There are state community colleges that offer free tuition, and most of these programs transfer your credit hours to four-year institutions. Scholarships are available from corporations and foundations, and there are grants available from a wide range of sources. By combining various grants and scholarships, you could go to college at no personal expense.

For more college and career advice, explore the rest of our site.