Yes, that last year of high school has just ended with a celebration called graduation. Proud parents and families throw parties and the graduate receives many gifts and cards. The relieved graduate wants nothing more than to sleep in late and spend evenings and weekends having fun with friends. But the work has only begun for those high school graduates and for those returning to college for another year. In addition, there’s a whole other “class” of potential new college attendees who have been out in the workplace and eventually determine that more education will be of benefit for the future. No matter which of these transitions an individual is experiencing, there are important tasks to begin now in order to be fully prepared financially to hit the campus in just a few weeks.
Many college students today have no choice but to rely on borrowing in order to pay for tuition and other costs covered under various government loan programs. Some are fortunate to receive scholarships due to excellent academic work or special skills they possess. In addition, some sources say that four out of five college students will also work at least part-time while in college in order to help support the hefty cost of today’s education.
Despite loans, scholarships, families who help out financially, costs to attend college today go way beyond tuition and room and board. Think about it – few of the normal costs of living go away when one walks onto a college campus or dials into an online course. Making a decision to pursue a college degree (or two or three of them) means making some concessions for sure. However, life does go on with all of the demands, needs and wants that would apply in any other environment. The only difference is the fact that few college students can work full time while pursuing full time higher educational endeavors and hope to have much success at either.
Aside from the tuition, room and board, which most would consider the largest costs of attending college, here’s a list to remind all hoping to head to school in the near future of what to plan for in the budgeting process:
– Books: yes, textbooks can cost up to $1,000 per semester. Whew! Read up and find ways to cut those costs ahead of time.
– Technology and connectivity: there will be ongoing costs for cellular phones and plans, computers, internet access, and all other gadgets and services.
– Food and entertainment: it’s a dream to think any college student will simply sit in a dorm room or apartment, always eat in the dorm cafeteria and never go out with friends. Planning in some manageable fun, eating out and entertainment is the only realistic way to do this.
– Travel, transportation, and parking: the cost of maintaining a vehicle on a campus can be pretty significant. Not only are parking fees assessed on crowded campuses, but fuel, maintenance, and insurance goes on even in college. Without a car, reliance on shared ride services and public transportation may become reality with all associated costs. Then there’s the occasional trip home to visit friends and family. All of this requires serious planning ahead of time.
– Medical expenses: most individuals going to college get sick now and then. The mere stress and hours associated with maintaining the rigorous schedule of school, work and family for some, often render folks ill and in need of a doctor. Health services and even possibly relatively inexpensive health insurance may be available through a university. Hopefully it will remain true that students under twenty-six years of age will be able to access health insurance and healthcare through a parent’s policy. Be sure to check with part-time employers as some may offer limited insurance for part-time team members.
– Clothing and personal items: the need to update the wardrobe does not end at the door of the university campus. Personal items such as shampoo, toothpaste and razors are still needed and there must be a plan to assure these items are accounted for. Watching for sales and coupons may help in this particular area with some additional effort. Maybe the family can “gift” monthly store or VISA cards to purchase these items.
– And don’t forget that holidays and special occasions requiring at least a greeting card and maybe a gift go on while in college. Rummaging around for cash at the holidays or when Mother’s Day approaches has its own special stress related to it. Friends and family keep on having birthdays and marriages and babies and deaths occur no matter what.
Before panic or depression set in, rest assured there is a way to manage all of this and now is the ideal time to think through how all college costs will be covered. While it’s summer, maybe additional work hours or part-time work can be tolerated in order to save extra money ahead of entering school. More than anything, being prepared by thinking through and documenting all costs of living during college years is the best advice. Then turning those numbers into a realistic spending plan will assure that the student can learn and focus, hopefully minus any major surprises.