How to Pay for School Without Working

FT Contributor
A young student sits in a classroom, tipping a piggy bank upside down.
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If you’re like many college students, you may find it impossible to work while attending college. Your secondary education places many demands on your time and focus, making it hard to dedicate yourself to a job. If you’re away at school, you may not have access to transportation to and from work or you might not be able to work in the state you currently reside in.

Whatever your reason for not being able to work while you attend college, it’s important to do all you can to pay for your education. There are several strategies you may be able to implement to ensure you can get through college without working.

Learning about the different ways you can support yourself and pay for college expenses while in school will help you minimize the debt you face after you graduate. Consider these financial options so you can continue striving toward your educational goals without worrying about holding down a steady job to cover your expenses.

How to Get Through College Without Working

Obtaining a secondary education is expensive. It can be hard to save money as a college student in order to cover your tuition fees, books, and living expenses. If you’re planning to complete your college education without also having a full-time job, there are five different ways you may be able to pay for your education.


A grant is financial aid provided by the federal government. Grants usually aren’t large sums of money that will cover all of your college education expenses. However, you may qualify for several small grants that can help you pay for tuition, books, or living expenses while you’re in school.

To apply for grants, you generally need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with details about your income and turn it into your school’s financial aid office. Most grants are only provided to students who prove they earn low incomes since they’re the ones who generally need financial assistance to get through school.


While they are similar options to help you pay for college, there are differences between grants and scholarships. You must qualify for a grant through the federal government by proving you earn a low income and are attending school. However, you may find scholarship opportunities through different sources, including employers, individuals, schools, private companies, communities, nonprofits, religious groups, or organizations.

Some scholarships are only available to students focusing on specific majors, those who are a certain gender, or students with other specific characteristics, such as military veteran status. You can search for a variety of scholarships online or use the government’s website to find out more about scholarships.

The amount of money you’re provided through a scholarship depends on the type of scholarship you applied for. Some may provide financial assistance to cover your entire college education while others may only offer money to cover a few expenses for the semester.

Student Loans

If you need help paying for college since you won’t be working, you may need to apply for a student loan. If you submitted your FAFSA, you’ll be informed about student loans you qualify for through the federal government.

If you don’t qualify for federal loans or need additional money to pay for school, you may also apply for a private school loan. Private loans are offered through financial institutions and other loan providers. The terms for these loans may vary depending on certain characteristics, such as your credit score and loan amount.

It’s important to review the student loan terms and explore your loan options before agreeing to a loan. Review the type of loan that’s being offered, including its interest rate and loan term.

Ensure you don’t need to start paying the loan off until you’ve finished college. Analyze the monthly payments you’ll be responsible for and remember you may be required to make these student loan payments on a tight budget after you graduate.

Summer Jobs

You may not be able to hold down a full-time job throughout the semester, but if you’re living on a budget while attending school, consider taking on a summer job. If you’re not attending courses over the summer or your workload is lighter, you may be able to take on a job to earn some extra cash that you can use for books, tuition, or living expenses.

Your school may also offer a federal work-study program that coincides with financial aid to help you pay for school. Although a summer job may not provide you with enough money to pay for your entire secondary education, it may help you cover your expenses without taking out several student loans.

Tax Breaks

While tax credits and deductions may not be enough to cover the costs associated with attending college, they can help reduce your tax liability significantly. You may not immediately experience financial relief from these tax breaks while you’re in school, but taking advantage of credits and deductions will save you money in the long run.

As a college student or graduate, there are several tax breaks you may qualify for, including the federal student loan interest tax deduction. If you paid interest on your student loans, you may qualify to deduct that interest from your tax liability. If you know you qualify for certain tax breaks, you may not need to apply for as many student loans or work as many hours at your summer job.

If you can’t work a full-time job while attending college, you have other ways to cover your college and living expenses while earning your degree. By utilizing all the financial aid and resources you qualify for, you can focus on school instead of a job and still minimize your student debt.

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