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What Are The Costs Of Going To College?

Feb 4, 2008
When it comes to college selection, the most important questions you'll have to answer include: how much is it going to cost and how are you going to pay for it? With the rising cost of tuition and ever increasing costs for housing, textbooks, and many other college related items, financing is an important aspect of college attendance.

Once you've selected a college, the next step is to understand college costs and financial aid options. Before exploring any funding options, prospective students should fully understand all college related costs. After you've determined what you will owe, then, and only then, can you analyze payment options.

Determining College Costs. When determining how much a college costs, it's important to remember that expenses go far beyond tuition and housing fees. You must also take text books, travel expenses, and spending money into account, or you could find yourself in a financial jam throughout your semester.

Start your college financial planning with a thorough assessment of the complete costs associated with each school on your list. This will help you to accurately compare expenses when you have financial aid offers from each school.

Do You Qualify for Financial aid? Covering the cost of higher education can be a real challenge. Once you have figured out the price tag on your colleges of choice, it's time to start thinking about the prospects of financial aid. But how do you know if you qualify?

The process of determining your eligibility starts well before you ever receive an offer of admission. To get the ball rolling, complete the Free Application for Federal and Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1 of the year in which you intend to start school. Based on the information you provide, you'll open the door to various forms of need-based aid.

FAFSA and PROFILE essentials. When it comes to getting financial aid, consider the FAFSA your best fin aid friend. Why? To qualify for any state or federal aid, including scholarships, work-study programs, grants, or loans, you are required to complete this government form.

More than six hundred undergraduate colleges, many of which award large amounts of their own financial aid, also require you to fill out an additional form called the CSS PROFILE. The CSS PROFILE is designed to provide schools with more information than the federal government provides in the FAFSA. The CSS PROFILE requires you to pay a small application fee, but it also qualifies you for institutional aid.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Approximately three weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a copy of your Student Aid Report. This report details your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is how much you'll be expected to contribute to college costs. Your EFC is determined by the information you supply on the FAFSA form.

The schools you selected on your FAFSA will also receive a copy of your Student Aid Report so that they can customize a financial aid package that's right for you. If you've been accepted for enrollment, the schools will send you an Award Letter. Award Letters outline the total cost of attendance at each school, your EFC, and a financial aid package.

Out-of-pocket costs. Once you know your financial aid information, it becomes a lot easier to get a realistic idea of what you'll need to come up with to bridge the gap between the cost of a school and the financial aid offer. There are plenty of resources to help you pay for school, so research all your options.

Paying for college begins with understanding all of your costs. The sticker price related to admission varies greatly from school to school. Many schools will also negotiate if they really want a particular student to attend.

Knowing your eligibility for financial aid, expected family contribution, and funding options offered by the school can create a complete financial aid picture. This allows you to seek out options based on a realistic estimate of your true college related costs.
About the Author
Michael Fleischner is the Managing Director of Peterson's, providing help with your college essay, personal statement, and college application essay as well as College Planning. Learn more at StudentEdge.com
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