The biggest form of unsecured debt in the United States right now is student loans. It’s higher than personal loans and payday loans—it’s even higher than credit card debt. The reason it’s so high is because so many students take what they can get, regardless of interest rates, and then suffer the consequences later in life.

In this guide we’ll show you some ways that you can lessen the impact of this debt, saving for college in a way that doesn’t leave you financially crippled.

Best Ways to Save for College

1. Complete the FAFSA

Financial aid is a lottery and there is no guarantee that you will receive any of it. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. If you head on over to the government student loan website (read our review of StudentLoans.Gov here) and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid then you can put your name into the hat and hope it gets drawn.

There are many possible grants, scholarships and more that you can apply for, and the sooner you do this then the more chance you will have of being successful. Federal student loans work on a first-come first-served basis, so the sooner you do it the more chance you’ll have of striking gold.

2. Choose a Cheaper School

There is a huge disparity between school fees in the United States. We already have some of the most expensive schools in the world, with even the most basic of schools costing up to four times more than a full education at world famous colleges like Oxford and Cambridge, but you can save yourself a lot of money by opting for a lesser known college.

Not only that, but you may also have more luck when it comes to financial aid. A school that costs $40,000 a year and provides you with a lot of financial aid is always more preferable to one that costs $60,000 and doesn’t offer you any. The difference it makes could literally be the difference between spending the first decade of your adult life in the red or the black.

Everyone wants to focus on the best possible schools, but it’s important to keep the financials in mind. What’s the point of going to the best school and getting the best education if it leaves you broke and struggling for the next couple decades?

3. Look for Scholarships

It’s not all about student loans. You can get a scholarship, and there are a huge number of these available. Everyone from major educational organizations and charities to blog and online content sites have them these days. In the case of the latter, they are used to give sites some exposure on education based domains, but they still work like standard scholarships and they can give you some much needed money.

What’s more, it’s never too early to start looking for scholarships and there is no end to the amount that you can have. This is great when you consider that scholarships don’t need to be paid back. It’s free money!

Save for College

4. See if you Qualify for Grants

When you apply for the FAFSA you will open yourself up to a host of grants, and these can help you to save a fortune on your education. According to a 2016 study, hundreds of millions of dollars go unclaimed every year as a result of students not filling in the FAFSA and not claiming these grants.

You will have to do the legwork as the grants won’t come to you, but it will be well worth it when you’re given a lump sum that you can use to pay for everything from course fees to books and more.

5. Tap Into Your Savings

If you have savings then this is a good time to use them. If savings can’t be used to pay for your education and set you up for life then what can they be used for? This applies to every cent that you have saved, no matter what you were saving it for or how much money it generates by sitting in a savings account.

The amount of money you will lose by making interest payments and steadily paying off your student loans will always be much greater than the amount you save by having money in a savings account. For a similar reason, there is no point trying to invest in stocks, bonds and savings accounts when you have a sizable debt generating huge amounts of interest.

It’s tempting to want to put money to one side, but it rarely does any good. Savings are for people who don’t have debt and have a positive account balance.

6. Take on a College Job

You’re going to have a lot of time to kill during your college years. You can even use that time to party, or you can use it to work. If it’s the latter, which is obviously the more preferable option, then you can make some money to start paying off your loans. The right job can cover a significant portion of your repayments and ensure that a large chunk is taken out of your debt at the end of your education.

Of course, finding a job isn’t that easy and you may be left with nothing but fast food jobs and other low-paying options. But you can also try some work-from-home jobs. We’re living in a freelancing age, where gig-based work generates billions of dollars every year, and if you have a skill or some time on your hands then you can become part of this.

Take a look at our guide to making some money to get some more tips. We also discuss things that you can sell in order to put more cash in your pocket.

Ways to Save for College

Getting Private Loans

If you don’t qualify for federal student loans, then private student loans are a great option, but you need to make sure you do your research, run some comparisons, and get the best deal you can. Checkout our reviews on U-Fi Student Loans and Discover Student Loans to learn more.

It can be difficult to navigate the world of private student loans, what with so many varying rates, penalties, and more. That’s why it should be seen as a last resort. But at the same time, if everything else has failed then it could be the only thing separating you from your education.