By: Alanna Ritchie
Preparing for the financial investment of college can be overwhelming. Added to the excitement and anticipation for your future is a frightening price tag associated with each university you consider attending. In 2013, the average price tag of a bachelor’s degree is $35,200.
Leveraging the time you have before college starts can help prepare you for the costs you will face. Here are five tips to assist you in handling the high price of education.
1. Work During High School
Learn how to start saving money for college early on. To do this you will need an income. As a high school student, your time is a valuable asset which can be used for part-time work during the school year and full-time work during the summer.
Even if it’s a minimum wage or food service job, every little bit counts. Put a percentage of your paycheck in a savings account and it can begin earning interest immediately. You can then use this to buy an annuity which could pay you monthly during your college years.
2. Apply for Scholarships
One of the best ways to pay for school is through scholarships, which don’t require repayment. Look for need- and merit-based scholarships offered by the school you are applying to and also outside organizations. Scholarship search engines are a helpful tool, providing access to special programs with eligibility based on your unique talents and traits.
3. Consider the Financial Value of Your Major
The type of major you choose can determine your future income potential. Think carefully before signing up for the first major you come across with classes that merely sound interesting. Take your research further and answer these questions: Are there jobs available in the field I am interested in? Is this the right major to work in this field? Have I looked at all the different schools that equip you for this job?
Too often students wait to think about the financial weight of their major until either a few years into school — putting time into studying and money into tuition — or even after a few years in their field.
4. Find out About Financial Aid
Your next step is to explore your financial aid options. Start by filling out the Free Application for Student Aid and getting in touch with your guidance counselor and the financial aid offices at your schools of choice. You can learn your eligibility for grants (money that doesn’t need to be repaid), and federal and private loans.
5. Consider Less Expensive Non-Traditional Routes
As you are planning which school to attend, limit your choices to local options. Paying out of state tuition as well as living and traveling costs greatly increase how much you pay for school. Also, your search should not just include four-year programs. Evaluate community colleges in your area, check out online classes and look at technical schools if they offer courses in your field. Don’t pay more than you have to for a degree or certification that is available for a lower cost just because it isn’t the traditional route.
Keeping your options open and honing your financial management skills early on can grant you access to a good education without piling on too much debt.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.
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