Shopping for College
The process of shopping for college can be a daunting one. On the one hand, you want the best education that you can get. On the other hand, sometimes your academic abilities and your family’s finances can limit your overall options. In the end, the process of shopping for college has a lot of variables about it that you need to very carefully consider before you make your final decision. While you can always transfer, this also carries some difficulties.
The most important questions that you would be wise to consider when you select a school are:
What do you want to study? No two schools offer precisely the same programs, and you would be wise to carefully consider which schools offer great programs in your intended field of study. In a lot of cases, there are less expensive schools that still have highly competent faculty members and valuable courses in the same basic subject matter as the more elite schools do.
How easily do the credits transfer? Many students opt to live at home and study at a community or junior college for the first two years of their post-secondary education.
What is the expected family contribution (EFC) of every school you go to? While this is different from the “sticker price” of most colleges, it is money that you and your family may need to contribute to your schooling.
Would it actually be preferable to live at home for as long as you can to save money? Often, going to school in the state you live in permanently is cheaper even if you do live on campus, so checking this out can be very valuable.
What are your scholarship options? Investigate scholarship options that may be available to you for individual schools and their component programs, as well as those that can be applied to any school. Apply to as many scholarships as you can. Every scholarship you can acquire can potentially reduce your out-of-pocket costs to go to school by thousands of dollars, and there is no limit to how many scholarships and grants you can receive. While you will not win all of the awards you apply for and you may not win any, you can never hope to win what you do not apply for or what does not exist in the first place.
How easy is it to complete your degree at the school? The easier, the better. Many students seek a challenge and go to harder schools. They end up wasting time and effort. Some of them fail out. Instead, pick a school that will be easier and that has a higher graduation rate to avoid the risk of having to drop out.
Paying for Education
In an ideal world, you would never need to do anything special in order to pay for any kind of education that you may want to acquire. When you wanted to go to school, you could simply take a test and pass to gain entry to the school of your choice. Unfortunately, the real world as it is has far more hurdles to your education. Namely, you need to have a rather large amount of money. Since almost no one can pay cash for their higher education, you are going to need to find a method of payment using other people’s money.
The two most common methods of paying for your education are through the use of loans and grants. As a general rule, most people are not able to acquire large amounts of grants, so loans are what you may end up being stuck with. However, the types of loans that you may get are very different from one another. The main types of loans that most people get are split into public and private loans, and the differences are reasonable. However, all student loans need to be repaid, as even filing for bankruptcy protection will not discharge them.
Public loans are those that are backed by the federal government. With this kind of backing, the insurer is reasonably assured that they will receive payment on the loan, and thus the interest rate that you pay tends to be very low. As well, the fact that the government is involved also allows you to defer payments in some instances. The terms tend to be flexible, even going so far as a perpetual interest-only option if your income becomes extremely low for a time.
Private loans tend to have some similarities to public loans, but they do have a small number of differences to them. For one thing, a private student loan may have fewer chances for forbearance than a public loan might. You need to check into the specifics of your particular loans before you sign anything, but as a general rule the biggest difference is the interest rate.
In some cases, the interest rate on a private student loan is higher than you might pay for a mortgage, and the time period in which you are allowed to repay the loan in installments may also be shorter than would the duration of a public loan.
Often college is the hardest part of life financially, because a student has little credit, little income and is living an expensive lifestyle due to inexperience. However, even during this expensive phase of life, a student has the ability to cut down their costs dramatically. While it can be difficult, the cost cutting process is worth the time and energy, because it can save on student loans and help the thinly stretched income of the average student to go further.
Consider a program that will give you credit for courses you take while you live at home with family. This could be selecting a school that accepts credits earned at your hometown college, summer school credits from your hometown college, or Advanced Placement (AP) credits or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits you earned in high school. Saving a semester in college can reduce tuition and board costs.
Use every option available to save money on tuition for required classes. If you only need a certain number of credit hours for a particular requirement and you have no additional interest in it, you can seek out methods of only getting the amount of hours or credits that you need. In some cases, this can involve opting into an additional lab in a science class instead of taking several extra hours that you do not need. Consider overloading if you are not charged for additional credits. Also, you may find that your school accepts transfer credits from other, cheaper schools. You may be able to take a class from a cheaper nearby school or a summer session class.
Minimize the money you spend on books. See if you can borrow a copy from the library instead of buying from the bookstore. If this is not possible, see if you can buy a used copy from a friend or from Amazon.com.
Sell back your textbooks as soon as possible. When have completed a course and your textbook is not required for additional courses, sell it through a program at your school or through Amazon.com. (If you sell it on Amazon, ship it using the U.S. Post Office’s media mail service, which is very cheap.) Do not keep your textbooks “just in case” or for reference. The value of books depreciates rapidly over time. You can either use the Internet as a reference or you can buy an older edition of the same book or a comparable book for less than $5 plus shipping and handling on Amazon.com. Buying older versions for yourself is a smart move, since you can read more feedback on Amazon for books that have been read more often.
Still another consideration is that you may want to learn how to have fun on the cheap and learn to cook for yourself, so you don’t get hooked on luxuries you cannot yet afford.
Cook for yourself (and even your friends) on weekends instead of eating out. Meals are much cheaper when you prepare them yourself. Have drinks at a friend’s house instead of going to a bar. Drinks are much cheaper when you buy them at a store than at a bar. Make sure that you always carry your student ID card around with you, and keep your eyes out for student discounts. In some cases, taking your report card to a restaurant or other kind of store can garner you a discount on useful and even fun things