What High School Seniors Should Know About Paying for College
Mar 15, 2012
You're getting ready to cross the stage for your sheepskin, and to you that means you're an adult - but are you on top of your college finances? There are many misconceived ideas about tuition and other expenses. Know your options and limitations when entering college to help avoid major sticker shock.
If you're a high school senior soon heading off to the world of higher education, you might have fallen prey to one of several dangerous misconceptions about paying for college. Use our guide below to help navigate your way out of these turbulent waters and take control of your finances like a real adult.
I'll Go to College Later, After I've Saved
Huh? Take it from someone with a master's degree - don't put off what you can do now. Plus, according to FinAid.com, tuition inflation increases by eight percent each year. That means that the cost of tuition doubles every nine years (www.finaid.org). Of course we expect costs to go up because of inflation, but take this into consideration - college tuition inflates at twice the amount that everything else does.
I'll Pay for College with a Scholarship
No, you won't. It's hard to be the bearer of bad news, but this is just ignorance on your part. No matter how good your grades are, there are always others applying for the same scholarships as you (and their grades may be better). Plus, most scholarships are worth $500 to $2,000. You rarely find a scholarship that pays for your whole tuition. This doesn't mean you should give up on scholarships altogether (after all, it is free money). Just don't assume they'll pay for the entire cost of college.
Financial Aid Will Cover All Costs
The average private school tuition for the 2011-2012 school year was $28,500 (this doesn't include room and board). According to FinAid.org, the average amount of financial aid coverage for a school year was $12,455 ($6,500 in grants). See the difference? You must understand that while some students can have their college costs covered, many are still responsible for at least half.
Community Colleges Are a Waste of Time
Often a 2-year degree sounds like a joke to a student with a bachelor's degree or higher. Community college standards may seem low, but the cost outweighs any negative connotations. In-state community college (on average) costs roughly a third of a 4-year college. This means that to earn your associate degree in two years, it will cost you less than one at a public university. Plus, if you can enroll in a 2+2 program, you can move effortlessly into a 4-year program because your credits transfer.
Private Colleges Are Worth the Money
We're fed the idea that private schools are always better than public schools because the latter lack funds and have to follow government standards (that we often believe are sub-par). Yes, you may wear your private school colors with pride, but the truth is that many public universities offer educations that are just as good as their private counterparts. And with tuitions at half the price, it's not a bad idea to give your state college another look.
I Won't Need Money in College Because Everything Is Paid for
Do you wear deodorant? For the sake of your dorm-mate, let's hope so. Even if you don't, do you like to hang out with friends, give gifts at holidays or buy coffee? Everyday living expenses are not covered by financial aid, so it's wise to get a job or receive a stipend from your parents. Whether you need gas for your car, highlighters from the bookstore or want to eat at a restaurant with your boyfriend/girlfriend, you'll need cash.
Work Study Is for Poor Students
Your parents may seem wealthy and you may've had a privileged childhood, but college is expensive even for the affluent. Don't turn your nose up at the idea of working through college. Work study is a part of your financial aid package. You'd be foolish to pass it up, because it's money from the government and is exempt from taxes. This aid is for all students who need financial assistance. Not only will work study cover additional personal costs, but it's also a learning experience.
Refunds Are Free Money
If you receive a check in the mail from your school or the government, it's not free money. These checks are typically refunds from excessive loans that you have taken out in your financial aid package. This money will accrue interest, so it's a good idea to return it to the lending institution to pay off the principle. Don't waste this money on shopping or eating out. It's like having a credit card but in the form of cash. It'll need to be repaid eventually.
Now that we've shattered your misconceptions, don't give up. Find out how to make your scholarship essay stand out.