22 May College Education
In a world where everything from fashion to technology is changing by the minute, there is one thing that has stayed the same: College is expensive! Tuition, textbooks and housing continue to put an enormous amount of strain on 18-year-old students and their families. Higher education is quickly becoming the #1 expense for families today. A family with two children in college could end up spending as much as $100,000 or more on college tuition alone and though that is a substantial investment in their future, it is no guarantee of success.
A college education is becoming more and more essential in today’s job market. In some industries even a Bachelor’s degree just isn’t cutting it anymore! This kind of competitive selectivity that we are seeing in college acceptance rates and financial aid & scholarships, is preparing our teenagers for life in the “real world” more than it ever has before. Here are a few tips on how to navigate the college tuition maze and (hopefully!) come out unscathed.
- Dream big, spend small. While you may have been accepted into a very prestigious, private, out-of-state university, those often come with a rather hefty price tag. Since most of us cannot afford to write a check with that many zeroes, it is so important that you choose the best college that you can afford without amassing an enormous amount of debt in the process.
- Have “the talk” with your kids. For some reason parents rarely speak openly with their children about finances because “people don’t talk about money.” But that practice should be long gone now. We need to have frank, honest conversations with our children about what we can afford when it comes to choosing a college. This way both parents and children can manage their expectations and make informed decisions that they will all be happy with down the road.
- Pay now or pay later. Filling out a FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) application is the first step in seeing how much assistance you are awarded for education expenses by the government. These financial aid packages will include a mix of loans, grants and work-study opportunities that can help you pay for school. If you choose to accept any loan, do so wisely and cautiously. It may seem like a lot of money now (New computer! New shoes!), but just be aware that you must start paying back the full amount borrowed plus interest within the first six months after graduation. So leave the student loans as a last resort and use sensibly if absolutely necessary.
- No strings attached. Take advantage of any grants and scholarships that you may be eligible for. This gives students an even bigger incentive to hit the books! The better your grades are and the more activities you are involved in, the more opportunities you will have to earn free money for tuition and expenses. You just have to find your niche and get out there and explore it: Writing essays, public speaking competitions, local clubs and honor societies and even being on the Dean’s list can help you score a scholarship or grant for school. And who doesn’t like free money?
- Be a poor college student. No one expects you to hold down a full-time job or bring in a full-time salary while attending school. So unless you want to take up a permanent residency in the Poorhouse, I strongly suggest not getting in over your head with extra employment and commitments. Make school your number one priority for a short while and reap the benefits in the long term when you are happily employed in your chosen field, living debt and (financial) stress free!
College is that brief gateway between childhood and adulthood that is just as much about life experience as it is about academics. So the lesson here is that it’s all about balance; finding that equilibrium between work and play while keeping it all within your means.