In high school you might hold down a part-time job to earn a few extra bucks, but your parents take care of all those pesky items like the mortgage, food, utilities, and insurance. All you really need to do is concentrate on getting into a good college, but you’re getting the feeling of a new financial reality creeping into your life.
Maybe you had a hint of this reality when you and your parents completed the FAFSA. Or perhaps you felt a twinge of suspicion during the conversation your parents had with you when you received the financial aid award packages from your colleges, and realized just how much your education is going to cost your family. High school graduation and your freshman year may seem like they are still way down the road, but here are a few lessons you will need to discover in your new financial reality:
• Your family may not be able to afford your first-pick college: This may seem like traumatic news, but try not to make a dramatic scene about it. You and your parents will make a big financial commitment to pay for college, so try to make sure it’s one you can really afford. Look carefully at the financial aid packages, and make a smart financial and emotional choice about the college you will attend.
• College may really cost more than you think it does: If you have looked at the school’s cost of attendance and subtracted your financial aid and Expected Family Contribution, you might think you can actually afford to attend this college. But take a close look at the expenses you don’t see listed on the website – like travel to and from the school, apartment and food costs if you don’t live on the campus, cell and data expenses, laundry, entertainment, and a host of smaller expenditures that can add up to big costs very quickly. This might just throw your budget over the line and make you think again.
• You might have to learn to live on a budget: Money is pretty free now, but mom and dad might not be able to afford as much when they are paying those college bills. You might have to earn some money while going to school, or learn to live on a strict budget because money is so tight.
• You may be learning a lot about student loans over the next few years: You may have heard stories about student loans, but aren’t sure how that is going to affect you. Before you make mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars and put your personal financial future into disarray, take the time now to learn about federal and private student loans, like those available from Discover Student Loans.
Being a college freshman can be both exhilarating and scary. Make the money side of it less frightening by discovering a new financial reality before heading off to college in the fall.