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College costs are rising across the country, and if college is in your future, you may feel the only way to afford it is through loans. The good news is there are other options if you don’t mind getting creative.

Grants or Scholarships

It might seem like a waste of your valuable time to apply for scholarships or grants since you may feel that you don’t have a very good shot at getting them. Still, getting free money can help you stay out of too much debt, even if you have to put some work into it.

Start by looking in your local area. These usually don’t have as much competition and you already know they come from legitimate sources. In some cases, you can apply them over multiple semesters or school years. Look at local businesses and foundations in the area, such as credit unions, law offices, and community foundations. You can check with the guidance office at your school because many businesses let schools know about these types of scholarships. Another way to make the search process easier is by using online tools to help you search for and apply for these scholarships. You can find your options here online and apply for relevant ones.

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Consider Starting Your Own Business

It’s easier than ever to earn money from home, and there is a high demand for a variety of services that can be offered remotely. Think about your existing skills and how you could leverage those to start a business. If you play an instrument, you might be able to offer lessons. If you are good with certain programs, you could market your skills through tutorials. Teaching an in-demand skill can net you more than a part-time job or a work-study program. Online tutors are in demand all the time, and when you are enrolled in school, you can show potential customers you are committed to ongoing learning. If you are studying English or a language, you could tutor elementary, middle school, or high school students in this subject. You can also teach English as a second language to others overseas.

If making things is more to your liking, you could also sell your crafts. You could sell jewelry, artwork, or knit pieces on one of the many platforms for artists to sell their products. You can also market your services in person. There may be craft fairs in the area, or you could market your babysitting or pet sitting services. Even if you only earn a little income here and there, it can make a difference when it comes to college expenses.

Getting creative can help you figure out what you have to offer others. Plus, taking part in the gig economy allows you to choose when and how much you work, so you can fit it around your class, exam, and homework schedule.

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Consider Programs to Help You Work in School

Work-study programs are designed specifically for students who want to work and do school at the same time. While many pay only minimum wage, they can still help you bring in some income while you are in school. Many are designed for those taking graduate or undergraduate courses, though they are mostly limited to those with a financial need. You will most likely get a position with a federal or state agency, your school, or a private organization. To qualify for this program, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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Community College

Going to a traditional four-year school can be more costly than attending a community college. If you have general classes to get out of the way, such as English or science, you can take these at a community college while working part-time. You might be able to live at home while doing this, and you can save a money. If you decide to attend a community college, it’s important to double-check that any credits you earn here will be transferable to the four-year school you plan on attending later. After you check on this, you can consider signing up for a transfer program. You will take the courses you would have taken at a four-year school, but they will be designed to help you transition when the time comes.

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Do Your Research on Tuition-Free Schools

If you’ve never heard of tuition-free schools, you might think they are too good to be true. But there are many schools that do not charge tuition, and some do not even charge for your room and board. In place of paying, you would be expected to work a set number of hours each week for the school. There are also military academies, which do not require you to pay room, board, or tuition. In place of this, you would take training for a career in the military. In return, you would be expected to serve for a certain number of years after completing your education there.

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Save on Textbooks

Your college expenses are made up of more than just tuition. Textbooks can be extremely costly, depending on your major. Instead of purchasing brand-new textbooks from the bookstore, do some digging to see if you can find deals on used books on other marketplaces. Many marketplaces allow students to sell books to other students once they are done with them, and you can find books in a variety of conditions. Renting your books is another option, and you may be able to find digital textbooks for rent. You will often pay only a fraction of the price for a digital copy as you would for a hard copy. You will likely already be spending a lot of time on your computer, so a digital version can be more affordable and convenient than carrying around heavy textbooks.

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Save Money

Even if you are spending a lot on school, practicing money management tips and saving money will help you build up an emergency fund in case you don’t find a job right after graduation. A budgeting app can help you avoid spending too much in any one area, and it will help you figure out where your funds are going every month. And having a budget can help you stick to your goals.