College  |  September 26, 2018  |  Jen Ryan

What you'll learn
  • How to make a plan to pay for college
  • Tips to set you up for college success

The idea of paying for college can be scary.

College student Gabe, 19, knows that feeling well. So well, in fact, that the beginning of his video about paying for college feels like a tribute to horror films.

Gabe also knows one important thing that you should, too: With the right plan, paying for college isn’t so terrifying. Still putting together your plan? Try the 6 straightforward tips that Gabe shares in his video. They’re award-winning ideas that earned him a $10,000 college scholarship from Sallie Mae.

Gabe’s 6 tips to add to your plan to pay for college

1. Get a part-time job.

Easy, right? A job can help you save up for your basic on-campus expenses, like books, food, and travel to and from school. If you live in a state with a high minimum wage, chances are you may be able to save up a good amount.

2. Apply for college scholarships.

Scholarships are free money you never have to pay back. Starting your scholarship search is easier than you think. Try a Google search or check out a tool like Scholarship Search, which will recommend scholarships to you based on your interests and activities. You can apply for scholarships at any time during high school and college, so keep those applications going until you have your bachelor’s degree in hand.

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An illustration of a boy doing homework on his bed with a cat on his shoulder

3. Don’t forget the FAFSA.

AKA the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is a big one. Depending on your family’s financial situation, you may qualify for government grants and student loans that can help you pay for college. The FAFSA application opens on October 1 for seniors. Some financial aid is first-come, first-served, so you’ll want to apply as close to that date as possible. (Editor’s note: Grab a family member to help with the FAFSA because you’ll need their financial information to complete the application.)

4. Open a bank account.

You can go to a national bank chain or local bank—either works. Your bank account will do two things. One, you’ll learn how to manage your money. Two, you’ll have somewhere to put the money you’re earning at that part-time gig. Consider opening a checking and savings account, so your savings can earn interest and keep growing.

5. Consider a side hustle.

Love coding? Filmmaking? Put your entrepreneurial spirit to work. Freelance wages are a great way to supplement your savings from the comfort of your home—or anywhere you go. Gabe brought his filmmaking skills everywhere, including “local businesses, Kickstarter campaigns, and even a job opportunity at Buzzfeed Studios.”

6. Earn college credit now.

If your high school offers AP classes or classes at a local community college, consider signing up. Both give you the opportunity to earn college credit. If your college accepts those credits, you’ll have fewer classes to pay for.


A word of advice about Gabe’s tips: You don’t need to add all these tips into your plan to pay for college if they don’t work for you. “There are a plethora of ways to minimize the cost of college. Choose the ones of your choice,” Gabe says of his tips. After you’ve explored all other options, then you might consider private student loans.

Even if you just try a few of Gabe’s tips, you’ll be on your way to feeling more confident about how to pay for college.

Who’s scared about paying for college? Not you.

Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Sallie Mae makes no claims about the accuracy or adequacy of this information. These materials may not reflect Sallie Mae’s view or endorsement. Consult your own attorney or tax advisor about your specific circumstances. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

You must apply for a new loan each school year. This approval percentage is based on students with a Sallie Mae undergraduate loan in the 2018/19 school year who were approved when they returned in 2019/20. It does not include the denied applications of students who were ultimately approved in 2019/20.