College Financing Guide

how to pay for college without incurring a lot of debt

College is not cheap. Depending on where you are going, college cost can average $20K per academic year. That totals to ~$80K for your BS degree. Research will show that the investment pays off in higher career opportunities. But research also shows that many students get so far into debt that the return may hamper your life style. So be smart and manage your cost wisely. Understand the process and take advantage of every possible aid option.

Below are four (4) quick summary tasks on financing college:

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for HS seniors

Understanding College Costs

Don't let cost disqualify one school from another. Your "preferred" school may offer programs that can help you pay the cost.

But cost is an important criteria. You don't want to become so saddle with debt when you finish school. A less expensive school may offer the same program and benefits as the more expensive school. So do your research.

Summary of Costs:

  1. School Tuition and Fees:
    cost to attend class instruction and the use of facilities, labs, libraries and all other related services for each enrolled student

  2. Books and Supplies:
    the estimated amount for books and supplies the student will be required to purchase for classroom instruction — this item may include a computer and other electronic & telecommunication devices

  3. Computer and Other Electronics:
    not necessarily required since colleges offer computer labs and other shared facilities. However, given the electronic push made by colleges and the use of online assignment and instruction, it will be the student's advantage to have their own personal computer along with a printer and other necessary electronics

  4. Room and Board:
    the estimated cost for housing and food if you live in a residence hall; if you live off campus, food expenses are not estimated

  5. Transportation:
    the estimated cost for 2-3 round trips from your home to school; if you live with your parents, the estimated commuting costs will be calculated

  6. Personal Living Expenses:
    the estimated cost for clothing, grooming supplies, laundry and limited entertainment

  7. Other Personal Costs:
    personal expenses that are specific to the student such as disability expenses, dependent care, loan fees, etc.

  8. Miscellaneous:
    any other expenses that you can identify with your school's Financial Aid Office

for HS seniors

Add Your Costs Up

Use the calculator below to get a rough estimate. The calculation will provide you a fairly good idea on what to expect as you finalize your decision `where to attend college:

Cost of Attendance
Tuition and Fees
Class/Lab Fees
Room and Board
Other Expenses
Personal Needs
Special Events
Cost of Attendance
Other Costs
Total Estimated Costs

Use this college comparison worksheet to help in pricing comparisons and benefits among colleges.

File Type: excel

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Start with Scholarships

Your first step in any search for college financial aid begins with scholarship and grant awards. Scholarships and grants are FREE money that does not have to be repaid. They are awarded for athletic, academic, artistic and other achievements or associations.

Use our directory of the net's largest scholarship search engines. You will find over $44 billion is scholarship awards.

directory of scholarship sites
search scholarship database

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Understand the Aid Process

Become Qualified
view what's needed to qualify for student financial aid. Understand college costs, dependency status and expected family contribution (EFC).

Submit FAFSA Form
students (and parents) must submit the FAFSA to start the aid process. The FAFSA is used by colleges and agencies to determine eligible aid amounts.

Review the SAR
the Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizes your FAFSA information and calculates EFC. Review it carefully for changes and corrections.

Get Award Letter
colleges will use the SAR to determine your eligible financial aid awards. Compare your award letters among colleges to determine best aid package.

Analyze Aid Options
financial aid options include grants, scholarships, work-study, loans, state aid, community service, and other federal and private aid. View options.

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View Aid Charts:

aid chart for:
aid chart for:
parents of undergraduates
summary student loan chart
student loans pros and cons
summary aid options

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Budgeting Expenses

Students and parents should work together to setup a budgeting plan for college.

We invite you to use these quick steps:

download steps as a 1-page tri-fold

Download this FREE college budgeting worksheet and use the 1-page tri-fold to build your college budget:

download budgeting worksheet