Entering college is a momentous step, but it can also be an expensive one. With the cost of a college education rising, more students are depending on financial aid to complete their education. It is critically important in planning for college to know what the total cost of your education will be and how much financial aid you will need.
Where to Start
The first thing you should do to determine the total cost of your education is to find out how much tuition is. You can find these numbers by calling or visiting your university’s registrar or admissions office, or by visiting the registrar’s or admissions website.
Tuition will make up the majority of your expenses. However, this doesn’t reflect the true price of your education because there are many other costs that should be considered.
Other costs to factor into your college financial planning budget include:
- Course fees
- Specific course materials
- Internet access
Ask for Financial Guidance
You can schedule an appointment with your institution’s financial aid office to start building a financial plan for your future. Counselors should be able to recommend types of financial aid that are best suited to you.
Applying for Financial Aid
Financial aid planning can help lower your out-of-pocket expenses. To apply for federal aid, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which may provide you with assistance in the form of grants, work-study programs, or loans. The amount of aid awarded varies from student to student and school to school, taking into account household income and school type, size, and location, among other factors.
You should also check into grants and scholarships that you may qualify for. There are several websites that make the search for these types of aid easier.
Federal loans should be taken out only if necessary, and private loans (non-federal) loans should only be taken out as a last resort, because they typically have high interest rates that take effect immediately. Also, experts say that you shouldn’t take out more student loans than you expect to earn in your first year out of college.
Taking the time to research and plan for the true cost of your education has never been more important. More and more students are in need of financial assistance, with approximately $150 billion in aid awarded in the 2010-11 academic year. By discovering and applying for the financial aid you need, you’ll be able to create a more accurate budget for yourself.