Affording College: Know Before You Go
It’s the middle of summer and yet back to school commercials are in full swing and Target’s school supplies section has taken over. What is this?! Since others are preparing to go back to school, I thought of writing a mini series on affording college! So stay tuned to future posts and learn ways to save and make money in the middle of an expensive education.
If you are in high school thinking of going to college, this post is especially for you!! I didn’t become super interested in personal finance until my senior year of college, so here are some things I wish I would have done when preparing to go to college. Please learn from my mistakes. 🙂
Figure a budget
Before you start looking at schools, I advise you start talking to your parents about college. It may be hard to talk about, but you’ll need to know if or how much your parents have saved for your college. Remember: your parents saving for your education is a gift, so treat it that way! Be gracious for whatever amount your parents have set aside.
Depending on what your parents have saved, it’s now your turn to get to work! Find a job and pick up extra shifts where you can, and find odd things on the side such as babysitting. Create a budget for yourself to ensure that most of your money goes to college savings. Maybe you’ll figure that 20% will go to spending money, and 80% will go to saving for school.
Now when I was a senior, I needed one English credit to graduate… Therefore, my senior year was pretty light. Of our 8 periods, I had 3 free periods, a TA period, and 2 choir periods. I then took college writing and a 5th year of math because why not? If this is you and senior year is looking to be light, work more! You’ll have extra time on your hands, which can lead to extra cash in your pocket! I worked about 15 hours a week, but wish I would have done more.
Taking college level classes in High School
Now this is something that I did and am thankful for (and I will share about more in a future college post). My junior and senior year at my high school, we could take courses that allowed us to get dual credit through the local community college. It cost $10 a credit, which was such an awesome deal! If your high school has something like this, do it! It is cheap and can even lead you to graduate college early like I did. Getting some prerequisites out of the way in high school will set you up for greater success in college.
Picking a school
So now you’ve received every college brochure in the mail and are starting to pick out your favorites. Some are in awesome locations, some have great programs, and some have amazing culture. It’s important that you focus on the financial aspect just as much if not more. Let me be the first to tell you, student loans suck. They really do. It will seriously be amazing for you if you can get through college with little debt or without them at all. I don’t think it would be anything that you regret.
Now, this is hard because I don’t know exactly how I feel on this topic. I chose to go to a private Christian university because I went to public school all my life and really wanted to be in a small Christian community. And boy, did I pay for it. It was such an incredible experience. I took Bible classes, had hall Bible studies, met the most amazing and wonderful people. Even met my husband! I don’t know if you can put a price on that experience, but the university did. And it was hefty! Looking back, I couldn’t afford to go to school there. I had scholarships from being valedictorian of my high school, but private school is soooooo expensive. Though, I am beyond thankful that I went to that school. It was something I will always remember and be thankful for.
I’m not saying that you can’t go to a private school. Believe me! I went to one and absolutely loved it! Just be aware that you will have to sacrifice other things to make ends meet.
So with that, I encourage you to really weigh the pros and cons of each school. If going to a private school isn’t something that is extremely important to you, go to an in state university or even start off your first 2 years at a community college. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You will still get an education and can laugh when you come out of college debt free and everyone else is enslaved to student loans. 🙂
Picking a major
You’ve probably heard the saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” And yes, you should do something you enjoy, but it also needs to be realistic. Find something that interests you, but is also a real job. 🙂 Also, remember that college is an investment! Get the most out of your investment by going to school for something that will land you a job and a higher income. I’m not saying that everyone should go to school to be doctors because doctors make more money, but honestly think about what your life would be like after college with your degree. Even shadow someone with the job you’d like to learn if that’s the route you want to take.
For example, when I was in high school, I really enjoyed math and numbers. It made sense to me. I am also someone who is very analytical, so I decided that accounting would be a good route for me with my interests and skills. It’s also a field that I could easily find a job in and has potential for a higher income. So I graduated with a bachelor is science in business accounting and started my first accounting job 3 days after graduation!
The bottom line
What this all boils down to is to be realistic and think about the future. How is student debt going to impact you for years after graduation? Is a private school that much more important for your education? What will you love majoring in but can still make money? Really think about this and how life after college will look.
Good luck on your college planning adventures!!
Also, check out my YouTube channel for more budgeting, saving, and life videos!
photography by Donna Zavala