You are in high school. Surely you have no worries. Certainly you don’t have to think about saving and paying for your college education.
If you’re going to college, it’s more important than ever to plan early and be financially responsible. You don’t want to incur a large college debt if you can avoid it. And, yes, you are just as responsible for financing your college education as you parents.
Here are some suggestions for preparing for college costs and making sure you budget as best you can.
1. Save – If you work, if you get money as gifts, put away 10% to 20% of that for college. Start as early as you can–best to start by your freshman year of high school. If you have missed that mark, start now.
2. Use AP Credit – Check to make sure the colleges you apply to accept qualifying AP scores as credits toward your degree. In this way you can shorten your college years for your degree, saving money. Every credit hour costs money, as does room and board to earn that credit.
3. Develop a Reasonable College List – Before even applying to college, sit down with your family. Look at what you have saved and at what they can contribute. Discuss and decide how much college debt you want to take on. Then look at colleges’ costs. Even reach schools should be in your budget. You may think this approach short changes your opportunities, but when you have your degree in hand and little or no debt, you’ll be way ahead of the Ivy Leaguer who owes tens of thousands of dollars.
4. Apply for Scholarships – You can start applying for scholarships as early as your freshman year in high school. Make sure you check out several scholarship data bases so you have huge list of possibilities and dig in. Look especially at merit scholarships which are not based on need but on academic ability. Many colleges that are trying to compete with the selective schools will offer merit scholarships to the top 25% of their applicant pool. Make sure you continue to apply for scholarship monies very year, even throughout college.
5. Prepare Ahead for Extra Costs – One thing that costs a lot is text books. As soon as you get your class schedule and required reading, go online to look for rentals, used books, and digital editions that will be less expensive than buying at the campus bookstore. Also meals can be expensive. Look at meal plans carefully before purchasing one. Do you really need three meals a day on the weekend when you may be home or going out anyway? Do you need to pay for cafeteria lunches during the week when you’re going to classes and will likely just grab a slice of pizza?
Learn to take responsibility early for your college education. It will pay off in the end!