Guide to Saving for College
When you search for a college, it may be tempting to choose the campus with the prettiest buildings or the most fun student activities, but a lot more has to go into the consideration process than just these factors. For instance, can you afford to go to this particular school? Do they offer the major program you want to enter? What about housing costs? Before you get excited about a particular university, here are a few things to consider.
How much you are willing to or can spend on college is a very important factor to take into consideration in the college selection process. While you should never let the price of a school discourage you from applying, you do need to think about that massive tuition bill.
Have your parents been putting away in a college fund for you?
Most parents hope and dream that their child will do well in school and then go on to pursue an education beyond high school. And with that in mind, some parents start saving as soon as you're born. But with today's job market and cost of life expenses it can be tough for parents to swing the cost for your education at a particularly expensive school. So don't settle for just "any" school but also do be considerate of your parents' financial situation; talk it over with them to see what they can handle.
Have you been saving money from a part-time job?
A part-time job is a great way to help save for your education. Plus if chosen wisely your side job could be an asset for potential scholarships and grants. Still, even if you're continually squirreling away your funds you still probably won't have a ton of money saved so additional options for funding need to be considered. Trying to come up with an idea for a solid part-time gig to help get you through school? Look here.
Will you qualify for a grant or scholarship?
It seems as if you need to leave the cradle thinking about college, because what you do in your early school years has a major impact on whether you'll qualify for grants and scholarships down the road. You can't go back in time but the good news is that no matter where you are in pursuit of your education you can still help increase your odds. In addition to keeping up with all the latest developments with funding (both Federal and State) you can also help yourself by being active in your community, keeping your grades up, and choosing a school that brings the most incentive to attend there. It's also imperative that you fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) so that you can really get a handle on which college(s) you can actually afford to attend.
Are you willing to take out a loan to go to this campus?
This isn't really an easy question to answer. On one hand it is very common for students or parents of students to take out at least one loan to help pay for college. But on the other hand, a loan insures quite a substantial amount of debt by the time it's all said and done. Granted, you can help offset some loan expense by choosing the loan that best suits your needs, but also be warned that if you (or your parents) default on the loan it could have an incredibly negative impact on your credit. This isn't to scare you off, it's more a reminder to take a look at all the factors when considering a school.
With major decisions such as these it's a good idea to discuss all of your options with your parents and a counselor before making any final decisions.
Money's not the only issue when considering a college. One thing that's really important when you're comparing schools is which ones offer the major you would like to study. And while most four-year colleges offer most majors, there are some specializations within majors that not all colleges offer. For instance, if you want to be a creative writing major make sure the college offers this emphasis within the English department. If not, move on!
And don't forget to check out the specific professors in your field of study because they will be directly responsible for what you learn or don't. You should also be aware of enrollment patterns at the university. For instance, if some majors are impacted, you will need to either select a different major or go to school elsewhere.
This factor is two-fold. You need to decide where you will live, as in the location of the school and where you will live, as in housing. Let's look at location first. Are you willing to go to school out of state? Are you ready to accept being so far away from home? What about being in an area with different weather? Can you afford to build a separate wardrobe for say a winter climate? And what about being in a place that has less to offer socially than where you live? If you're used to being a hop, skip and a jump away from theme parks and big malls, then going to college in a rural area may not be what you're looking for. And if you're planning on working off-campus part-time are there any jobs available near the college of your choice?
Now what about housing? Will you live in the dorms on campus? Will you have roommates? Will you live in an off-campus apartment? Will you remain living with your parents? All of what you can and are willing to do needs to come into play when considering different colleges to be added to your shortlist.
The above items are probably the most important areas you need to consider when choosing colleges to apply to. However, there are many other things you need to think about that could influence your decision. Note: No single items from this list should be the reason why you do not go to that school. However, they may help you lean one way or the other in terms of whether or not a certain campus is right for you.
Choosing the right college will not only have a big impact on your finances and the life you'll be living for the next few years - your education and experiences in and around campus will also directly affect the person you become. But with careful consideration of the various factors mentioned above, you should be able to select a college that both suits your needs and makes you happy. This is meant to be the best time of your life, so get to it!