Are you looking for a way to further your career and create a better life for yourself and your family? If so, you might be thinking about going back to school. It may have been a while since you were in the classroom, and you might be wondering how you can afford it. If you cannot work when you go back to school, you might think that you have to take out substantial student loans.
Even though student loans are on the table, you must make sure you know all of your options. You might be able to reduce your tuition expenses, and you could qualify for financial aid. What are a few of the most important financial tips you should follow if you are getting ready to go back to school?
Best Financial Tips for Going Back To School
1. Choose Your Program Wisely
When you are trying to figure out where you should go to school, make sure you pick the program wisely. There are plenty of undergraduate and graduate programs available, and you do not necessarily have to go to the same school you went to in the past.
First, consider the degree or certificate program you want. Make sure it aligns with your goals. Then, compare the costs of different programs carefully. You should not spend more money than you have to, but you also need to make sure the program will put you in a position to get a job in your desired field when you graduate.
2. Take Advantage of a 529 Plan
If you plan ahead, you may be able to open a 529 plan. A 529 plan is a specific type of plan that allows you to save money on taxes as long as the money in the plan is used for educational expenses. Specifically, if you invest in this plan, the capital gains on the plan do not get taxed as long as you can prove that you used the money for educational expenses, such as tuition.
The cost of education is going up quickly, but the money you have on hand can increase in value if you invest it in this type of umbrella. You may also be able to save for your children’s future education using a 529 plan in their name. If you have questions about exactly how you can save money on your taxes using this plan, you should reach out to an accountant who can help you.
3. Always Fill Out The FAFSA
There are a lot of people who feel like they will never qualify for financial aid; however, just because you haven’t gotten money in the past doesn’t mean you won’t get money this time. You don’t necessarily have to be under the poverty line to qualify for financial aid from an educational institution, so you should always take the time to fill out the FAFSA.
Make sure you fill out the FAFSA correctly. If they come back to you with questions down the road, you need to be able to answer them properly. Make sure you have your tax return on hand when you fill out the FAFSA and always follow up on the status of your application. That way, you can qualify for as much financial aid as you deserve, which could help you make the cost of your education much more affordable.
4. Talk To Your Family Members
Do not hesitate to talk to your family members if you need help going back to school. Families are there for one another, and if they know you are trying to provide a better life for your family, your family members might be willing to provide you with some money that you can use to go back to school. Even though it might force you to swallow your pride, you might be surprised at which of your family members will step up to the plate to help you. There is no harm in asking for help, so make sure you do so before you go back to school.
5. Explore Opportunities for Pell Grants
If you want to save money when you go back to school, one opportunity that you cannot overlook is called a Pell Grant. This is a grant that has been around since 1965, and the goal is to make it easier for low-income individuals to go back to school. Currently, if you receive a Pell Grant, you could qualify for up to $6,895 in financial aid.
To qualify for this grant, you will need to file an application first. You will also need to fill out the FAFSA, which has been mentioned above. You might be eligible for multiple forms of financial aid, which can make the process of going back to school even easier. If you qualify for a Pell Grant, you will need to resubmit the FAFSA every year.
The Pell Grant is designed to help people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so it will not be available to everyone. Some of the requirements that you will need to meet to qualify for this grant include:
- You must be a citizen of the United States.
- You must show that you require financial aid to go back to school.
- You need to be an undergraduate student, either full-time or part-time. Graduate students are not eligible for the Pell Grant.
- If you are not an undergraduate student, then you need to be enrolled in a post Baccalaureate teacher certification program.
Under this program, you can receive a Pell Grant for a total of 12 semesters. If you take full advantage of the program, that means you could qualify for more than $40,000 in financial aid. There are different ways you can get your funds, ranging from a deposit into your bank account or a direct credit applied to your educational expenses. It will depend on how your school decides to disburse the funds.
6. Consider Third-Party Scholarships
Keep in mind that there are third-party scholarship opportunities available. There are a lot of corporations and nonprofit organizations that have scholarship programs set aside for people going back to school. Even though there are third-party scholarships available for everyone, you may have a better chance of qualifying for a scholarship if you fall into a special category. Examples include:
- People of minority descent, including African-Americans and Native Americans
- Women, particularly single mothers
- Individuals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds
- People who are living below the poverty line
If you want to identify some of these programs, you can start with a simple Google search. You may also want to reach out to your local government to see if there are any grant programs available.