Paying for College

Middle college students learn to overcome many obstacles to success in college.  After graduation, though, a new and significant challenge arises they have not had to face:  Paying for College.

An associate or bachelor's degree is worth the investment of time and money, but that doesn't make it any easier to pay the tuition, housing, and textbook bills that come due before you get your degree and can start earning significant money. The good news is that there are options for students (and parents) to pay for college.  This page provides a brief overview of some of the options, including links to sites, organizations, and resources for learning more about them.  It is not designed to provide a detailed explanation of financial aid for students.  

Go to the experts first

The best recommendation for learning about how to pay for college is to visit your college's Financial Aid department and ask for help.  

The financial aid officers at SC4, for instance, will be glad to meet with you and teach you about all your aid options and how to apply for them.  Or, contact the financial aid office of the college or university you are expecting to attend in the future.  They are the best resource for information on grants and scholarships for students enrolled at their school.

Paying for College Success Session - for students and parents

Every year, SC4's Director of Financial Assistance and Services, Josephine Cassar, talks to our grade 13 students and their parents about how to pay for college after they graduate from the Blue Water Middle College.  Ms. Cassar is one of the most knowledgeable financial aid experts in the state of Michigan.  She covers a variety of topics in her presentation.  Spending an hour to view the presentation now will save you thousands of dollars a year if you are continuing in college after your middle college graduation.

If you want help paying for college, be ready to work for it

Paying for college takes work no matter how you look at it.

Students at work clipart

  • You are either working at a job to earn the money directly, 
  • working to research financial aid opportunities,
  • working on completing applications for financial aid,
  • or all of the above.

The more financial aid you discover, the less hours you need to work at a job while you are in school.  That leads to less stress, higher grades, and a greater chance that you will complete a degree.  So, get to work!!

Financial Aid

The term "financial aid" commonly refers to several kinds of assistance students can use to pay the cost of attending college, including tuition, fees, textbooks, room and board, and other miscellaneous materials like a computer or calculator. 

Common forms of financial aid include:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-Study

Grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid.  Loans, of course, must be repaid over time.  Work-Study is when students are provided a job usually working for the college.  Earnings from the job can be used to pay expenses while a student attends college.

Below is a video from the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid site describing the different types of financial aid:

Federal Student Aid site

The Federal Student Aid web site is a great place to learn about the types of financial aid available and a whole lot more about paying for college.  It includes page of information on how to apply for aid, including the very important Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA.

Information specifically for parents
The Federal Student Aid site has a page of resources that will be of specific interest to parents.  Here is a direct link to that page:

What is this thing they call "FAFSA"?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  In short, the FAFSA is a way to gather financial information from students that allows the sources of financial aid know who might be in need of money to pay for college and how much they might need. 

The information a student and his/her parents provides determines the student's "Expected Family Contribution" or EFC.  The EFC is the amount of money the student is expected to be able to contribute to their college education.  It does not always mean that the family can afford to pay that amount all at one time. 

More information about the FAFSA can be found in the short video below.  The Federal Student Aid YouTube channel has many more videos about student financial aid options.


Completing the FAFSA unlocks many ways to save money when paying for college.  Many scholarships require a FAFSA to be filed if they are based in part on financial need.  Even families who do not qualify for need-based grants or scholarships can benefit from cheaper loan costs if they have filed a FAFSA.


There is no reason why every student planning to take college classes next year should not complete a FAFSA.  SC4’s Office of Financial Aid is the place to go with FAFSA questions.  Located in the college’s One Stop Office in the Welcome Center, the financial aid officers will sit down with you and walk you (and a parent if you want) through the entire FAFSA process.  It should take between 30 – 60 minutes at most.

Affording College in Michigan - 2020-2021 Guidebook

Click on the cover photo below to access Michigan's comprehensive guide to helping students afford college.  It includes steps high school students and families should take prior to having to pay for college and loads of information and resource links to help students see how they can pay for post-secondary education.

Other Resources

The College Board website has a ton of information on how to research colleges and careers, how to get into the college you want, how to pay for college once you leave BWMC, and make a plan for all of it.  Start building your road map to the future here:

Click on the "Pay for College" tab to see lots of links to informational articles, videos and web pages on the types of financial aid available and ways that students pay for school.

College Scorecard site

This site, from the U.S. Department of Education, allows students to find and compare colleges based on factors such as location, program of study, graduation rate, cost of attendance, amount of debt students graduate with, etc.  It is pack with helpful information if you spend the time to get into it.


When high school graduation nears students often start a frantic search for scholarships.  Most scholarship dollars are earned well before senior year, because most are awarded based solely on a student's high school GPA and his or her SAT or ACT score.  So, the best thing you can do to earn the most scholarship dollars is to work hard for high grades and practice hard prior to the SAT exam in 11th grade and retake the SAT at least once the following year to hopefully improve your score.

Merit-based academic scholarships

Many universities have fixed criteria for certain scholarships.  Students are automatically considered for them and awarded the scholarship without having to apply for them.  For example, at Oakland University incoming freshmen in the fall of 2019 who have a 3.4 high school GPA and an SAT score of 1030 will receive $1,500 per year for up to four years.  That is a healthy scholarship.  However, if that student scored an 1130 on the SAT, her annual scholarship jumps to $2,500 a year!  That should be incentive enough to practice a lot prior to taking your SAT or, if you have already taken it once, take it again.

Local Scholarship Resources:

Community Foundation of St. Clair County

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County coordinates the granting of a few dozen scholarships for local students and colleges.  Many of the scholarships are specific to students from particular high schools, pursuing particular degrees, or attending particular colleges, but there might be one or two that fit you to a tee.

Go to to see the list of scholarships.  You will be asked to provide some information about yourself.  The site will then find the scholarships for which you might qualify.  All in all, it is a very quick process.

Applications for the scholarships will be available starting January 1st.  Deadline to apply for scholarships managed by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County is March 14, 2021.

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) Money site

Students attending SC4 or other colleges, in some situations, should visit for a list of scholarships coordinated by the SC4 Foundation.  Students must have a valid SC4 email address to log in to the site and apply for any of the scholarships.  Like the application for the Community Foundation scholarships, the process is relatively quick and easy.

Most scholarships on the SC4 money site must be used at SC4, but not all of them.  Read the details of each carefully to learn if you qualify and if it can be used at a college other than SC4.  

Special scholarship for Blue Water Middle College students only!

There is a scholarship listed on the SC4 Foundation site that is specifically for BWMCA students.  It is titled "DTE Energy Foundation - Blue Water Middle College Endowment Fund - SC4 Foundation."  Click on the name of the scholarship to learn more about applying.  It can be done relatively quickly, however taking enough time to write a well-developed essay may be worth it.

Here is a link to the page from which you can start the application:  Click on the green "Apply now" button near the top to start the process.  Answer the questions on the next page.  It will look for all scholarships for which you qualify.  The DTE Energy Foundation scholarship for BWMCA students should show up on the list.

Deadline to apply for scholarships managed by St. Clair County Community College is March 14, 2021.

National Scholarship Search Platforms

There are thousands of scholarships available nationwide, but it is hard for students to find good ones to apply to, scholarships that they have a good chance of getting. analyzed many scholarship search sites and ranked them based on many criteria.  Their website provides many helpful things for students to think about as they search and apply for scholarships.