Being prepared for college is more important than ever. For many high school seniors, the last months of high school are spent getting ready to head off to college. For these students, this means researching career choices, corresponding majors, and colleges that meet those desires. But what about how to financially prepare for college?
Preparation also means filling out application forms… and anxiously awaiting a decision. Once the acceptance letters arrive and the last summer arrives, dorm furnishings will be bought; thousands of students will head off to begin the next chapters in their lives. But is this all it takes to be prepared for college?
One of the most overlooked areas when preparing to head off to college is that of financial readiness. Many students head off to college no financially wiser than when they were kids. Unfortunately, this can impact their education and careers. One huge consequence is accumulation of student debt, a burden that can last through to your career post-graduation. In 2016, the average student graduated with over $37,000 in student debt. Along with the adventures and opportunities that college brings, it also brings financial obligations. To prepare for financial success in college, check out these tips.
Get to know financial aid
Taking the time to understand the terms of your potential financial aid packages can make a huge difference! The difference in how you choose to finance your college career and repay student loans, for example. Because students often do not take the time to thoroughly research their financial aid options, a lot of them end up unaware of the many options that exist including different repayment plans apart from the standard repayment plan of ten years.
Look into eligibility requirements for financial aid and start researching possible scholarship or grant awards available from your state or college. Many colleges offer an application fee waiver for low income students. If you are looking to get a loan, be sure to make use of comparison tools to evaluate your loan options and the interest rates that come with them.
Finally, think beyond your college life and look into the best repayment options when considering loans. Federal loans can be repaid based on your income and their interest rates are generally lower than private loans.
Budget, Budget, Budget!
If you are college bound, learning to effectively manage your money should be a top life skill you aim to perfect. College brings with it many new experiences including independent living for many students staying in dorms. When this new chapter begins, the obligations will come hard and fast. There will be tuition, books and living expenses to juggle and if you are funding your studies with a part-time job, making that paycheck last becomes quite important.
This key skill also comes into use later in life. For many, the price tag attached to going to college can be too much and they have no choice but to turn to student loans. This can also become a very useful tool in helping those students most affected by their loans alleviate the consequences. Getting a grip on your spending now sets you up for better financial planning in the future and can get you on your way to repaying those loans way sooner.
Research Job Opportunities
Getting a part-time job while in high school lets you start saving towards college early and also can be a great strength in your application. Once in college there are many internships, work study or part-time jobs that fit around your classes to help you earn money. The key to this is researching opportunities beforehand. Get to know the town in which your college of choice is located. Chances are there are many restaurants, bookstores and boutique stores scattered around campus. These stores are highly likely to offer work flexibility given that they mainly cater to college students.
If you prefer a work study program, don’t be afraid to ask about these programs when applying or doing a campus tour. Knowing your options ahead of time gives you the advantage of making a plan and getting applications in early.
It is important to make a game plan and even more important to stick to it. Take advantage of advanced placement courses in high school and earn credits towards your degree. Not only does this lighten your workload but it also means you will be not be paying for the college equivalent course. These courses also look impressive on your applications and can lead to scholarships or grants from colleges. By making small adjustments to your everyday life, you can begin to get yourself financially ready for college.
For more help with planning your college application process, visit the community at Empowerly College Counseling.