For most students, the going to college equation has gotten a lot more complicated than it used to be. On the one hand, you know that students who attend college end up earning more over the course of their career. What’s more, for many jobs, not going to college just isn’t an option.
But sorting out how to cover the costs of your education can be more than a little tricky. The good news is there are lots of ways to pay, and we’re here to help you consider and make smart decisions about saving, spending and setting off for a rewarding career.
To start with, and we can’t emphasize this enough, get as much free money as possible.
- Make sure you fill out your FAFSA (double check your deadlines so you don’t miss out!) with your family to make the most of a school’s financial aid package.
- Apply for scholarships, early and often.
- Don’t be afraid to weigh your college options. Remember that even though you apply for college and hope to be accepted, it’s still up to you to be a smart college consumer and “shop” for the right school for you, and your finances.
If it makes sense for you as a student, try to squeeze in a little earning while you’re attending class.
- Lots of financial aid packages offer work study options, which are great, because the jobs are often on campus, so you don’t have to travel to them and they usually offer flexible schedules for students.
- If you can swing it, working a part-time job while you study isn’t a bad idea either. Just be upfront with your boss about your student status and availability. And don’t overextend — stats show that working more than 12 hours a week as a full-time student can have an impact on academics.
If it turns out you do have to take out some loans, that’s OK, just make sure to borrow smart.
- You shouldn’t commit to borrowing more than what you can pay on what you’ll earn in the first years of your career. That also might mean making a different decision on what school you attend based on how much you’re willing to borrow.
- Make sure you understand completely what you’re committing to. There are different kinds of loans (private and public) that have different costs associated with each.
For many students, saving cash in advance to cover costs is one of the best ways to pay for your education, but we want you to make the most of the money you’re setting aside
- If you don’t already have one, consider setting up a 529 plan, which provides significant tax advantages when you put aside money for college expenses. But be aware of withdrawal rules, and, as with all investments, make sure you understand all fees, charges, and expenses. To learn more, check out Smart Saving for College—Better Buy Degrees.