The old adage says that you have to spend money to make money, and that is especially true when it comes to college. Finishing a degree in your chosen field can help you make contacts, gain real life experience and improve your job outlook in the future, but many students find that they cannot afford the high cost of attending college. Online classes are usually a little less expensive, and most schools offer a wide range of financial assistance for students.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid

When you apply to an online school, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA looks at your parents’ taxes to determine the amount of assistance available to you. Even if your parents can’t help you pay for college, you must still use their information unless you’re an independent minor or a member of the military. You can search for your school when applying for assistance, and the FAFSA will tell you if your school accepts government aid. If your school isn’t on the list, it isn’t accredited and you should look at other alternatives.

Federal Student Loans

Once you apply for federal aid, you’ll find out what grants and loans are available to you. US News recommends that you choose student loans available from the federal government before looking at private loans. Private loans often come with high interest rates, and you start paying on those loans as soon as you finish your classes or stop taking classes. Companies that offer private loans often charge students for their undergraduate loans even if they attend graduate school. Federal loans come with lower interest rates, and you don’t need to pay on those loans until six months after you withdraw from school or finish your degree.


Scholarships give you the chance to pay for your entire college experience without paying a single dime out of your own pocket. Organizations and companies across the country offer scholarships, and you can apply for those scholarships for free. Professional organizations offer scholarships for those entering specific fields, but you’ll also find other scholarships as well. You can apply for assistance based on your gender, location or even heritage. Check with the groups your parents belong to also. Many lodges and organizations offer scholarships for the children of members, and you qualify as long as a relative is a member. Some scholarships go directly to the school, while others go into your bank account.


Many colleges and universities offer work-study programs that pay you for working on campus, but you won’t have access to those programs when you attend an online program. After filling out your FAFSA, ask if you qualify for any grants. Grants range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, and unlike loans, you don’t pay back grants.

Accredited online colleges offer the same type of financial assistance as any traditional college. After filling out the FAFSA and determining which options are available to you, you can decide how to pay for your college experience. Using a combination of scholarships, loans and grants might be your best choice.