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7 College Planning And Guidance Tips For Your Finances

7 College Planning And Guidance Tips For Your Finances
7 College Planning And Guidance Tips For Your Finances
Going to college is one of the most exciting and stressful experiences you’ll face. You get to study things you’re truly interested in and get to be on your own for the first time in your life. However, there’s more to college planning than just figuring out where you want to go.

You need to plan for the expenses you’ll face along the way. Unfortunately, those expenses can add up quickly. The average student can expect to spend around $30,500 per year to attend the college or university of their choice.

The best thing you can do is start figuring out how to lower your college expenses as soon as you start applying to different schools. Here are a few tips to help you start off on the right foot.

1. Apply For Financial Aid Early

The sooner you start filling out the documents and forms for financial aid, the better off you’ll be along your college planning journey. As a general rule, fill out the FAFSA even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid and submit it to your school.

They may have scholarships and grants available for students in your financial situation that you otherwise won’t know about.

If you file your taxes as an independent, all you need is your financial information to complete the forms. However, if your parents can claim you as a dependent, you’ll need their tax returns and income information as well as your own. They’ll also need to sign the documents before you can file everything.

2. Make Sure You Shop Around For Student Loans

Student loans are the easiest way to finance your education. While the government-issued loans typically have the lowest interest rates, they aren’t always enough to cover the cost of your tuition.

This means you’ll need to look into student loans from private lenders and banks to find the best options for your needs. Don’t just settle on the first lender that approves your application. Shop around.

Compare the interest rates each lender offers you and make sure you understand the loan’s terms in detail. Typically, you’ll need to start making payments six months after you graduate or stop taking classes full-time.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the repayment terms and amount.

3. Look Into Part-Time Jobs In The Area

If you’re awarded financial aid, you may also qualify for work-study jobs on-campus. These jobs help you earn income to offset your college expenses. Unfortunately, many students won’t qualify for work-study positions, even if they qualify for financial aid.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic. Take your job search off-campus and look for part-time jobs in the area. Many retail jobs can work around class schedules and, if you’re applying for work in a college town, they’ll already understand that your education comes first.

Keep in mind that you should always put your education first. If you feel that you can only work 10 hours a week without interrupting your studies, make a note of that on your applications.

You’re free to use any income you earn from your work-study or part-time job as you see fit. There are no restrictions, but you will need to claim the income on your taxes every year.

4. Establish A Clear Budget

You'll want to create a firm budget to help you stay on track throughout the year. Look at your total living expenses for the academic year and break this amount up month by month.

Don’t forget to add costs for transportation back home during school breaks, fun events, and food that you might need to buy outside the dining hall.

Keep this number in mind and actively try to stick to it each month. If you go over, you risk depleting your savings or, worse, going into debt.

5. Never Pay Full-Price For Textbooks

Arguably, textbooks are one of the biggest expenses you’ll deal with during college. Some newer textbooks can cost several hundred dollars each and that’s just one book for one course.

Instead of paying full price, look for ways to save on your textbooks.

If you have friends taking the same course at a different time, split the cost of the book and share it with each other. If your bookstore offers used textbooks, try to snag one before they sell out.

You may also be able to rent your textbooks for less than you’d pay to buy a used copy from the campus bookstore. Read on here to learn how the process works so you can decide if it’s the best option for your needs.

6. Be Careful With Your Credit Cards

Building credit is always a good idea and the earlier you start, the easier it will be to keep your credit score as high as possible. Talk to your bank about getting a student credit card in your name. These cards will help you establish good spending habits and can jumpstart your credit history.

However, once you have the card, you’ll need to be careful about how you use it. Only buy things you can afford to pay for with cash. Once you make the purchase, pay off the balance of the card in-full.

Carrying a balance is the easiest way to drop your credit score and get into debt quickly.

7. Take Advantage Of Student Discounts

Most businesses, especially around colleges and universities, offer student discounts. Take advantage of those discounts whenever you can.

Get in the habit of carrying your student ID with you at all times so you won’t miss out on savings. You may even be able to get discounts from different streaming services and music subscriptions.

When in doubt, ask.

Follow These College Planning Tips Now

Going to college is exciting, but college planning can be stressful if you’re not sure where to start. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on track to keep your finances in good shape throughout your academic career.

Remember, it’s okay to feel like you don’t have it all figured out. After your first year, you’ll have a better understanding of how your college works and the types of expenses you can cut or eliminate.

Looking for more tips and tricks to make your college experience less stressful? Check out our latest posts.

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