There are a lot of costs associated with a college degree. We’re not here to scare you away from getting one—a degree is valuable in many different ways—but there are certainly some things you should be aware of when it comes to money and college. Everything from where you live to the books you use in class costs money. You’ll have to pay for your food as well, and then there’s the biggest cost of them all: tuition.
So before you jump right into this new and exciting experience, take some time and consider your upcoming expenses and how you want to handle them. One of the best things you can do is prepare your finances in advance. Read on to learn some suggested tips for how to financially prepare for college.
Create a Plan for College Expenses
It’s always a good idea to understand exactly what numbers you’ll be working with. Take some time to learn about the overall costs and compile a list that includes the following:
- Tuition Costs Per Semester
- Room and Board Costs
- Food Costs
- Textbook and Supplies
- Personal Expenses (recreation, clothing, medical care, etc.)
There might be additional costs if you’re going to live off campus, such as the cost of furniture for your apartment, car payments and gas if you’ll be commuting, utilities tacked on to rent prices, and more. The more detailed a list you have, the more you can know what you need to prepare to pay for.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
The next step in the process is to create a budget and be prepared to stick to it. It might be advisable to start living by that budget before you head into your college experience to develop a habit of it. Planning out the expenses you will take on will make creating this budget easier, and it’s always a good idea to be aware of what money you have, where it needs to go—and where it shouldn’t—and what your expenses are.
Get a Summer Job and Save Up
While it’s understandable to want to spend the summer before your first semester relaxing and having fun, it would be wise to invest in yourself and your future by getting a job and saving money. If you plan on having a job throughout college, that will certainly help with your upcoming expenses, but you can never plan too far ahead or save too much. Working a summer job can even prepare you to pay for all your expenses during those first semesters if you make enough and budget it out properly.
Start Establishing Good Credit
Having good credit is both very useful and highly necessary for your future. Once you’re out of high school, consider applying for a credit card and start building up a good credit score slowly. Work with what you have, and be smart about it. Don’t spend more than you’re making, and keep a diligent track record of all your costs and their due dates so you can be on time with your payments.
Apply for Scholarships
It’s worth it to always keep an eye on and out for scholarships both before and during your college years. You never know what opportunities are out there or what you could qualify for. Try looking at scholarships associated specifically with what you’re studying or where you come from. Your school is a good place to start—check out what they have available, then dig in and do a bit more research on other options out there.
Look into Financial Aid
Various entities want to help students who couldn’t otherwise afford college fees, and financial aid is one way to help students successfully earn a degree. There are all kinds of financial aid available to college students, including the following:
- Work-Study Jobs
- Military Family Aid
- International Study Aid
- Local Government Aid
- Aid from College or School
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a very commonly used form of federal aid. It’s something you can apply for continually throughout your college years. Money awarded from this type of aid is based on you and your parents’ income. Scholarships are usually given freely upon winning the submission. Grants are also funds given freely by an entity without stipulation of return.
There are many loan options for students, some better than others, so we recommend doing some research before jumping right into an agreement with a lender. If you qualify for military or international study aid, there are options available to you, just as there likely are from your local government.
Follow these important financial tips for how to financially prepare for college and start investing in yourself and your future.