College is an exciting experience for everyone who attends. There are opportunities to make new friends, expand your educational horizons and gain experiences that will help prepare you for life. And it is getting more expensive. If students are smart with their money, the burden of the ever-increasing cost of college can be reduced.
Which School is Right for You?
Deciding which type of school you want to attend will have a big impact on not only your education, but your finances as well. Community colleges are good if you are not sure what field you want to go into or are looking to save. They provide general education requirements that universities require, and have lower tuition rates. Private universities, although more expensive, tend to offer an education with a lot of personal attention and prestige. In-state public universities likely have lower tuition rates than private institutions and can offer some outstanding, comprehensive programs. Some public universities offer better, more comprehensive programs than private ones. When looking for schools, keep in mind the difference in cost and the type of degree you are looking for.
Keep it to Yourself
When filling out applications and financial aid forms, it is important to be diligent about protecting your identity. Keep your wits about you when using financial aid services. Legitimate companies will not charge anything for their services. Because of the intimate nature of the information required—social security numbers, tax information and school information—it is very easy for fake websites to misuse your information.
The best way to know if the financial service you’re using is safe is to go to the government-run site fafsa.gov. This is the place to file your FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and look into the types of aid you qualify for. Make sure to log out when you are finished and never share your PIN number with anyone.
Keep copies of all your receipts and relevant paperwork, this will help you to keep track of your financial information and spot any suspicious activity in your account. However, make sure to shred them when they are no longer needed to prevent private information from being stolen.
Manage Your Money
Perhaps the most important experience that you can gain from going to college (aside from the degree) is the ability to manage your finances sensibly. When you become a college student, you have less support from family, and managing finances is essential to having a positive college experience. Credit cards are a good idea to help build your credit. Make sure the limit is low, preferably less than $1,000. This will make it easier to make payments and will prevent you from spending outside your means. Keeping a strict budget that includes leisure-time money will help prevent getting into a dire financial situation. Everyone needs to have fun, so budget an occasional restaurant meal or night out. This will help you keep a level head, and make your time in college experience the well rounded experience it should be.