Tips for Paying for College

College Board Scholarship Search

Apply for Financial Aid

For many students, college may seem too expensive. By investigating college costs and how to pay for them, you’ll discover that higher education is within your reach.

College Costs Vary

The biggest part of college costs is usually tuition, which is the price you pay for classes. Additionally, you’ll probably have to pay fees to enroll in and attend a college. Other costs include room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses.

You should also think about the cost of going home for family and community gatherings if you attend college away from home. Just like tuition, these costs vary from college to college, but there are ways to save money on them.

Financial Aid Reduces the Cost of College

Financial aid is money given or lent to you to help you pay for college. It may be awarded based on your financial need or based partly on factors such as academic or athletic ability. Most full-time college students receive some form of financial aid. The financial aid application process usually has its own forms, deadlines, and requirements. You don’t have to be admitted to a college before you apply for financial aid

How to Apply for Financial Aid

  • Submit the FAFSA: Completing the FAFSA allows you to be considered for the greatest amount of financial aid from federal, state, and college sources—and it’s free to fill out at

  • Submit CSS Profile, if any of your colleges require it: CSS Profile is used by colleges and scholarship programs to determine eligibility for their aid dollars. To get the most aid, you need to complete the CSS Profile before the priority deadlines. You’ll need information similar to what you gathered for the FAFSA. Find out if the colleges you’re applying to require it at here
  • Search and apply for tribal scholarships: Your tribe may award scholarships based on need or merit. You may have to submit a financial need analysis form or a copy of your financial aid package. Contact your tribal office or department for more information.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to meet deadlines. You must submit your applications on time to qualify for financial aid. Financial aid resources are limited and, in many cases, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Review Each Aid Offer Carefully

The college that offers the most aid may not have the best overall offer. Carefully compare overall costs and the details of each college’s offer, which may be mostly loan based for some colleges, and read How to Review and Compare Your Financial Aid Awards to learn more. Remember that the college with the best financial aid offer may not be the right one for you—you should choose a college that’s a good fit based on your goals.

“Before I started college, my mother and I made sure to talk to a financial aid officer to learn more about my financial aid package and what to do when money was tight. I learned about department scholarships, how to accept loans, and work-study. It was a two-hour visit but worth it!”

–Megan (Navajo), Arizona State University (Yavapai, Akimel O’odham & Hohokam Territory)

Apply for Scholarships

Scholarship organizations and programs are working to provide more financial opportunities to support Indigenous students in higher education. Here are a few tips to guide you through the scholarship application process.

Start Your Research Early

Researching scholarships, requesting information, and completing applications all take time. You can use the BigFuture Scholarship Search to be matched with scholarships that you’re eligible for based on the program requirements. You can also explore over 23,000 scholarships in the BigFuture Scholarship Directory.

Read Eligibility Requirements Carefully

If you have a question about whether you qualify for a certain scholarship, contact the scholarship sponsor. Native American–specific scholarships typically require documentation and proof of Native American descent, lineage, and/or enrollment. Read the eligibility requirements carefully.

Qualify for BigFuture Scholarships

No essay, no minimum GPA or test score, no citizenship requirements. Just follow the steps for changes to win. Earn entries in monthly drawings for $500 and $40,000 scholarships by completing steps on BigFuture. Log in to your account, complete steps on your dashboard, and earn entries to win. One step completed = one entry in each monthly scholarship drawing. There are scholarship drawings starting January of your sophomore year until February of your senior year. 

“There are approximatively $3 billion dollars in scholarships that go unclaimed every academic year. Which means it is possible to fund your education. My advice: research numerous sites, take notes of deadlines and requirements, make your responses strong, and repeat. Don’t count yourself out if you aren’t confident with your GPA. A lot of scholarship committees look at an applicant’s overall application.”

–James (Cherokee), University of Oklahoma (Wichita & Osage Territory)