Fill out the FAFSA

This might seem basic, but it's so important. Even if you don't think you'll qualify for anything, you should still fill it out. You have nothing to lose, and the potential of thousands of dollars to gain. Some endowed scholarships require you to have the FAFSA filled out, even if you don't receive any assistance from it. Going into college, I did not receive anything from the FAFSA. In my second year, I applied again and received assistance, and I continued to for the remainder of my education. You never know what you might receive if you don't apply. If you need help with your application, Student Financial Services is an excellent resource for you: Student Financial Services.

Apply for endowed scholarships

For some endowed scholarships, you are automatically considered based on your major, GPA, hometown, etc. For others, it requires a simple essay answer, or even just clicking a box. I always pick a day to sit down and fill out as many as I can. It is so worth your time, and there's no limit to how many you can receive. This is the number one reason I am graduating debt free. To apply, you go to and search for Endowed Scholarships. These are all only open to SEMO students, so your likelihood of getting one is increased.

Keep your GPA up

I know this is easier said than done. If you receive the Copper Dome scholarship, make sure you know the minimum GPA required to stay in your tier. Other scholarships also require a minimum GPA to apply. If you feel yourself slipping, ask for help! You don't need to have a failing grade in a class to take advantage of the free tutoring program at SEMO. I used it for an accounting class. I probably still would have gotten a passing grade without help, but I got an A with help. This allowed me to keep my GPA up. If you don't think you can commit to a tutoring appointment each week, you can always send in your writing assignments to the writing lab and get feedback only when you need it. There are so many programs set in place to help you succeed; you just need to take advantage of them.

Get involved in extracurriculars

I received a lot of my endowed scholarships because of my extracurricular involvement. There are specific scholarships for certain clubs that can only be awarded to members of that organization. Choosing to be fully immersed in the college experience was the best choice I made, and it paid off when it came to endowed scholarship opportunities.

Choose the more affordable options

When considering options, the biggest thing that comes to mind is room and board. SEMO has options that will work for anyone. Community-style housing is cheaper than suite-style, which is a major difference. I went with the cheapest housing option my freshman year, which was Towers East. I thought I would hate sharing a bathroom with twenty other girls, but that was actually so far from the truth. I had the best time living in that dorm, and everyone on my floor was so close. And, I didn't have to clean the bathroom or buy toilet paper! You get the same experience anywhere you live on campus. Don't assume you wouldn't enjoy living in the cheaper dorms just because they are less expensive. If saving money is important to you, I highly recommend you look into it.

Get an on-campus job

SEMO has a variety of on-campus jobs you can get. You can work up to 20 hours a week, which creates a good balance as a full-time student. Depending on your major, some jobs can help you get experience in your future career field (like I am right now). Some on-campus jobs have a lot of down time; this means you can work on homework while getting paid. You most likely won't get as much as you would at an off-campus job, but it is more flexible and prioritizes your education first.

Utilize the summers to work

Each summer, I had a different seasonal job. I did not take summer classes, and I only focused on working. This is when I made what I needed to pay my tuition bill.

Use SEMO's payment plan

SEMO has an Installment Payment Plan option to help you spread your bill out over the semester. You can pay in a maximum of five installments. This helps the bill seem less daunting. Learn more about this option here: Payment Options

Don't take out loans just because you can

Student loans are an excellent resource to utilize to help you pay for your education. But if you don't need them, don't get them. 

Not all of these are applicable to everyone. I was fortunate enough to be able to focus on my education without too many other financial responsibilities. Even if you don't graduate completely debt-free, these are all ways to help ease the financial strain of getting an education.