Success in College Guide: Step 4 of 9

Steps 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Prepare financially for college


It's never too late to start saving for college, but the earlier you start, the better. You'll thank yourself for it later, when every dollar you save now reduces your student loan debt after graduation. You probably can set aside a specific amount every pay period to build a college fund- but it takes some good planning and self control.

The cost of college

College expenses vary depending on the type of college (public or private, in-state or out-of-state), the number of courses, your major, and personal lifestyle. Costs can include:

  • Fees added on to your tuition bill include services such as the health center, library, and student activities.
  • Room and board costs can be for on-campus or off-campus housing. It can include meals at the college cafeteria, at a restaurant, or prepared on your own. In off-campus apartments, students can often pay to have meals in the college cafeteria. Living at home and commuting to campus is usually the least expensive option (though you need to consider the cost of fuel, parking, or public transportation).
  • You also will need to buy textbooks, supplies, calculators, etc. -- whatever you need to complete your courses. You also may need to purchase a computer. (Don't forget the expense of necessary software and applications for the system.)
  • Personal expenses can include laundry, clothing, recreation, medical care, insurance, etc. If you plan to travel home often, don't forget to add any transportation expenses.

Other expenses to consider:

  • Utilities (gas and electric) if you're living off campus
  • Phone bills (yes, that includes your cell phone)
  • Furniture/bedding
  • Car payments
  • Car licensing fees
  • Toiletries/personal care items
  • Clothing (including cleaning costs)
  • Doctor/dentist visits
  • Insurance (car, medical, and life)
  • Entertainment
  • Gym memberships
  • Internet access and cable TV
  • Emergency funds

Use the budget calculator to help determine your income and expenses.

Financial aid

Yes, college can be expensive, but costs vary and financial aid can make even an expensive college affordable. There are three main types of financial assistance available to qualified students: Grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study. Financial aid can come from federal, state, local, and private sources. Most "free" aid (grants or scholarships) are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis; so apply early.

Remember: During your senior year of high school and every year during college, complete all necessary financial aid forms, including the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 prior to the start of each college academic year.