Seems that every time you turn around, someone -- usually an enterprising college student who needs the cash to pay that tuition bill -- is writing a book on how to pay for college. Add on the perfunctory, Without Going Broke, Without Mooching Off Your Parents, Without Going Into Debt, and you've got a best seller.

Saunter (a good SAT word) into your local Barnes & Nobles and you'll find at least a half dozen books dedicated to paying for colleges, the profits from any one of which likely to be sufficient to fund an endowment. Why, simply do a Google search, "paying for college," and up come hundreds of sites -- with books, articles, treatises and rants galore -- everyone (including The College Whisperer) sticking in his or her two cents on how you can best spend yours.

Of course, there's no real magic, and only a touch of sleight of hand, when it comes for saving and paying for college.

Much like Steve Martin's comic routine, How to Make a Million Dollars (first, get a million dollars), the best approach to paying for college is saving for college, well in advance of that first tuition bill hitting your mailbox (or e-mail box, as is the case these days, more often than not).

Open and regularly contribute to a college savings (529) plan. Check out as a guide to 529 plans, generically. New Yorkers should visit for the low down on NY's 529 plan, which offers saving through a wide array of investments (managed by Vanguard), along with a handsome NYS tax deduction. New Yorkers can start a 529 plan with as little as $25 (which is what you might have left in your pocket -- if you're lucky -- should you choose to feed the insatiable coffers of, say, an NYU).

Search -- and actually apply for -- grants and scholarships.
You'd be amazed at all the places you can find money for college, if only you'd take the time, not only to look, but to chase after those greenbacks. Yes, start with fastweb, the universally recognized portal where life in the scholarship frenzy begins. Then, seek out other sources of free money for college. Scholarship search websites (and there are dozens), such as,, and Community-based scholarships and grants. Kiwanis. Rotary. Lions. Church and synagogue. Fraternal organizations. Local businesses and banks. And don't forget the feds (i.e., Pell Grants) as well as scholarships offered by the colleges themselves. The list goes on. And remember to hound your high school guidance counselor for new scholarship opportunities arriving daily. Dig. Then dig some more!

Full-time, during the summer and those traditionally long college breaks. Part-time during the school year. You'd be surprised how those dollars add up. Many colleges offer work-study as part of the financial aid package. Take advantage. A little hard work never hurt anyone. And who knows, you may just have something left over for pizza and a keg party (Shh! I didn't say that...).

Borrow prudently. If you must take loans to pay for college, do consider the federal Stafford loans (particularly of the subsidized variety), typically offered as part of the college's financial aid package. If private loans are necessary, compare rates and terms. Check out private loans at

Complete FAFSA online (and, when required, CSS Profile). No matter what money you may be entitled to in scholarships, grants, work-study, and even loans, you won't get a penny from colleges unless you complete the FAFSA form and submit same in a timely manner. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is, as its name implies, free to file, and a pre-req, in most instances, to getting a financial aid award. Some schools require the CSS Profile, in addition to or separate and apart from FAFSA. [Hey, College Board needs to make money too, right? ;-( ] Mind those deadlines!

The College Whisperer
could go on and on with respect to finding money for college. There are, indeed, millions of dollars to be mined, much of it untapped each year. Then again, you -- as students and parents -- need to be good and diligent prospectors. Money is out there, much of it free. But it won't be knocking at your door...

For those still married to the book, here's a review ( of the latest "How To Pay..." book to hit the stands, How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships or Mooching Off My Parents, written by a college student, Zac Bissonnette. Go ahead. read the book. [It probably won't tell you much you don't already know or haven't thought of, but if it makes you feel you've left no stone unturned...] Better yet, like Zac, write a book of your own, and let those who pour over its pages pay your way through college.

E-mail The College Whisperer at

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
* * *
Comments? Questions for The College Whisperer?
Write us at

The road to college begins at College Connection.