QUESTION: Ben on Twitter asks what the best way to pay for college is without parental assistance.
ANSWER: It can be done. It's difficult, but it can be done. The first thing you've got to do is right before you enter college, that summer and spring and winter before, you have to be working like a crazy person and building up the money to make it that first semester.
That's a big deal. The second thing is your college choice is going to be very important. You're broke. Your parents are broke. You are not going to an expensive school if you're smart. You're going to choose something that's very inexpensive. That could be even a community college where you live at home and do your first year or two at community college as a community college student. In some states, it's almost free or free. In other areas, it's a tenth or half as expensive as a university to knock your first two years of basics out and get your core stuff done. That'll get the ball rolling for you and saves you a lot of money. If not, then at least go to an in-state school where you're saving the money. You're paying in-state tuition at a state college and trying to find something that's local where you can live at home and do that.
To give you an idea, the average in-state tuition is about $8,000 right now. When you divide that out, it's about $700 a month. You can make $700 a month delivering pizza. Go deliver pizzas every night. You'll make $1,500–2,000 a month with tips if you have a decent route that you're running. Or cut grass or whatever. Seven hundred bucks a month for tuition, and buy used textbooks and live at home—you can get through school that way. You really can. That's doable.
That's the kind of thing you have to think about—your living situation, the college choice, and you're going to be working, obviously, to earn an income. Lastly, I would make sure if anyone in the family, including you, can scrape together the money, to be tutored on the ACT/SAT tests. Take them multiple times because every one of our kids took them two or three times, and each time they took the test, they got better scores. Each time they took the test, we paid for them to be tutored, and they were more prepared to take the test the next time. Of course, the higher the score, the more scholarships and grants that you qualify for. You can really get into some serious money that way, and then you're going to spend a lot of time applying for scholarships and being turned down, applying for scholarships and being turned down, but I don't care if you apply for 1,000 scholarships and you get 10 of them. If you get 10 of them at $1,200, that's $12,000.
Lastly, what I would tell you to do is get our Custom College Guide. It's $139.99, and you can learn more about that and it gives you a guideline on schools. It'll help you select the schools, and it'll fill out all your FAFSA stuff for you as a part of the process. It's a great $140 to spend on that process as well. You can find out about that at daveramsey.com/collegeguide or just call them at (855) 63-GUIDE.