7 College Planning And Guidance Tips For Your Finances

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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.

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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.

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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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