College costs are far too costly for college bound kids

College costs are far too costly for college bound kids

Kaijona Wade

For yet another consecutive year, the cost of tuition has risen for universities across the country. Students now more than ever are facing the difficult decision of having to give up their ideal “dream school” because of the high price tag that comes along with it. With merit scholarships requiring students to perform in some of the top percentages on standardized tests, and need based aid being determined by your family’s income, the odds don’t seem to be in the favor of most students.

Estimated tuition is just a baseline of the average cost of classes, along with books, required meal plans and housing for the average student. What most colleges don’t factor in fully is your actual living expenses. If you go to a college across the country, don’t expect to be able to come home often without paying a hefty bill on airplane tickets. And if your school has a particularly well achieving sports team, expect to have to pay a few bucks to get into a game or to purchase season passes. Then of course who can go to college without a laptop? Want to deck out your dorm room? That décor is going to cost you. And let’s not forget all the new college gear you’ll need to buy to show your school spirit; add that to the budget too. And it’s these little expenses here and there or those days where you just want to actually do something fun outside of school like go to a movie, that start to add up quite a bit.

So what’s a student to do when the bills start to pile up and tuition is looking like a lifelong burden of debt? Well, there are a few options to keep that college dream alive and most importantly save some money along the way. Option number one, and probably the best option: scholarships. Yes they may be a hassle, and who really wants to write essays over and over for sometimes only a few hundred dollars? Well, as a future college student you have to keep in mind: money is money. Oftentimes people don’t apply for the smaller $500 scholarships because they are thinking the same thing; that it’s not worth it since it’s only $500 and not $5,000. But a word to the wise, those smaller scholarships really start to add up and truly help when it comes down to being able to reduce your loans or having money to buy your supplies or books for school. “The more you apply for scholarships that you are qualified for, usually, you’ll see good results,” said Counselor Annette Michalson. And to make your scholarship search and applications a bit easier, one tip would be to save your essays. Oftentimes scholarships ask similar essay questions and it’s a lot faster to simply have to tweak an already written essay than to have to start from scratch on a completely new one. Also, be sure to check Naviance for a list of scholarships that you can apply for, and keep track of due dates by putting reminders on your calendar or on your phone. “This year’s class is particularly achievement oriented and I think it shows in their awards,” continued Michalson when reflecting on the scholarships obtained by students this year.

Another option that’s a lot less popular are of course the dreaded loans. Yes, they’re mean and scary and will follow you for the rest of your life, but don’t let that stop you. Loans should be the absolute last resort to paying off your tuition or other expenses, and if it comes to that point, make sure to see a well educated financial or college counselor before doing so. Subsidized loans are great because those are the ones where you won’t have to pay with a huge interest rate, meaning you won’t have to pay a lot more money than you actually borrowed. And when it comes to loans, the lower the interest rate, the better. “I think now [schools] have gotten so expensive that more students are saying yes to the public than to the private schools. In year’s past kids never really had to borrow, but now in order to minimize their indebtedness, a lot more students are choosing public over private,” said Counselor Mike Willis. Willis continued, “With the federal government allowing a maximum of $5,500 a year in loans, multiply that by four and you now know the average amount of indebtedness you’re in by the time you graduate. The real question to ask is is it worth it to get that degree from X university or college?” If the answer is yes, then go for it.

And the last tip to being able to afford to go to a school with a high tuition is to, if necessary, appeal your financial aid package. Some schools have a particular way of going about appealing and getting your package reconsidered, and others just ask that you submit a letter regarding your need or calling or visiting the financial aid office to explain your situation. Either way, it never hurts to ask and many times it can actually pay off, literally. “My mom went and talked to the Seattle University financial aid department, and that conversation made it so that I was able to go to that university,” said senior R.J. Landowski.

So in the end, don’t be afraid of those expensively expensive college costs. Though the fees are rising, that just means that savviness for savings should too. And if it’s just too much, there’s always the community college and then transferring option. But if feasible, the better option would be to instead beat the system. And there’s no better way to start than by getting ahead of the game now and filling out, or continuing to fill out those scholarship applications. Good luck Class of 2014 and congratulations to the amazing Class of 2013 on your future educational endeavors.