College Student Financial Checklist

College Student Financial Checklist
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Managing your finances in college can be the difference between graduating with huge amounts of student loan debt and graduating in a place where you are in a position to start really succeeding financially. This guide will help you manage all aspects of your college finances—from paying for college tuition to cover living expenses, internships and managing your summer jobs.  It will look at the strategy you can employee each year of college in order to make the most of your experience without accruing a ton of debt.

 

Applying to College and for Financial Aid

The first step in planning out your college expenses is choosing which college you are going to attend. You can save money by choosing a public in-state university over an out-of-state university or a private university can help you reduce the amount that you have to pay for tuition. Staying closer to home can decrease other expenses like travel costs, and the amount you have to pay in health care costs.

When you apply for college, many applications have an additional form or box that you check to show that you want to be considered for financial aid and scholarships. Take the time to find out if there are other steps you need to take to apply for scholarships directly from the university that you will be attending. This is the first step in determining how you will pay for college.

Talk to Your Parents

Many college students must pay for their college expenses on their own.

Others have some or complete help from their parents. Take the time to sit down and discuss with your parents what their expectations are so that you understand just how much they can or are willing to help. They will need to help you fill out your FAFSA form since you have to put their income information on until you are twenty-four even if they will not be helping you out.

You also need to find out just how much your parents are willing to help you. They may give you a set amount each month, cover your tuition or do nothing at all. They may also pay for everything on the condition that you keep your grades at a certain level. You may also need to discuss whether or not they plan on allowing you to take your car to college, whether or not you can stay on their car insurance, and whether or not they will keep you on their health insurance. These things can all help you save money. But it also helps when you start planning on paying for college.

Create a Four Year Plan

When you start college, it helps to have a general plan of what you want to do in college and when. You may need to plan and save up to cover the months that you will be doing an internship. If you want to study abroad for a semester or a year, it needs to be part of your plan. This may mean extra expenses since you will not be able to work during those times. If you have your plan, you can avoid taking on too much debt too early so you can still do the things that are the most important to you. As you create your plan estimate the amount that it will cost for each year. This may be one of the most important steps you take after graduating from high school.

Choose Your Housing Options

Many colleges want freshmen to live in the dorms. This may not be the most inexpensive option, but there are advantages to living on campus because you can save on transportation and parking costs and it can help you meet people. It is important to carefully choose your housing options. You may want to move off campus after your freshman year to save money. It is important to continue to evaluate your options each year so you can continue to save.

Applying for Scholarships and Financial Aid

Take the time to fill out the FAFSA even if you do not think you will qualify, since some of the scholarships offered through your college may be based on this information. It is also important to apply to as many private scholarships as you possibly can. This will reduce the amount that you need to borrow and how much you will need to work to pay for school.

It is important to understand how the money for college will work, since the majority of it will be sent to the school. If you have extra after tuition, you will get a disbursement at the beginning of the year.

Creating Your Budget

It is important to have a solid budget for college. This should include everything from monthly expenses, to your books, and tuition. If you know you will need extra money for a specific year, you may want to budget a bit extra each month to save for it. Once you have your budget, you will be able to determine if you need to work while you are in college. You may also want to consider using other programs that help you pay for college like Americorps. Once you have your plan, you need to make sure that you stick to your budget. You can adjust your plan as needed, but if you have this plan, you are less likely to accrue as much debt while you are in school.