Paying for College
By Jeannette Webb
It is April and kids are happily making college visits to determine where they will matriculate. Parents are thrilled and proud, but simultaneously wondering how to pay for all of this. There are great scholarships out there and my clients have raked in a good number this year; however, don’t plan on that covering everything. This economy has damaged the endowments of many institutions and numerous scholarships have vanished. So, students need to do the math and figure out how to cut costs. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are determining which college to choose and how to cut costs once you get there.
1. It is not wise to borrow any more than you can reasonably expect to make in the first year of your career. So, do a quick Google search for the starting salary of your current intended major. If you would start at $32,000 in a first job, don’t borrow any more than that for 4 years of college.
2. If you qualify for financial aid, your college will probably offer work study. Try to secure something like a library job that will give you time to study or look for something in your department. Colleges tend to give easier work study jobs to kids in hard majors.
3. If given a choice, pick the cheapest dorm and food plan. As students get older, they can often live off campus with a houseful of kids to cut costs to the bone.
4. See if your parent’s health insurance is cheaper than student insurance. Opt for the least expensive one, but make sure it has good coverage. Most student plans are excellent.
5. Buy used books or, better yet, borrow them from friends. Re-sell where you will make the most money. Often this will mean selling directly to other students.
6. Once on campus, keep your eyes peeled for ANY scholarship opportunity. When I was attending college, I was always filling out scholarship applications and many of them paid off.
7. Consider accelerating the time it takes to go through and thus cutting costs. Take extra classes when you can, but you must keep a high GPA for good job prospects.
8. Consider something other than the usual student jobs. In some large cities kids can charge $10-15 an hour (per dog) to be a dog walker. Obviously you can walk more than one dog at a time. Some students have specialties and can coach, offer SAT prep courses for local high school students, teach art classes, or design websites. At our local college, there are students web designers who make more than their Ph.D. professors. Perhaps you can start (or continue) a business. I was in college with a clothing designer. She would take one commission a semester, designing a one-of-a-kind evening gown for a wealthy sorority girl. Eight dresses paid for her college education.
9. Most important, major in something that can get you a good job upon graduation!!! Do your homework now. It is ridiculous to go into debt and spend four years on a degree that has lousy pay and no future. Liberal Arts majors, even from Ivy League schools, can’t get work in this economy. If you are planning on graduate or professional school after college, you need to figure that debt into the money equation now. Many headed to medical school or law school should seriously consider the least expensive undergraduate college in order to be able to shoulder the debt of graduate school.
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