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Choosing the Right College

Despite federal aid, institutional incentives, and scholarships, paying for college is still a financial burden. Most students have $100k in debt before their 21st birthday. To avoid high student debt, research all of your financial options to avoid taking out loans. Apply for scholarships to supplement your financial aid package, and find alternatives to loans.

Having information is the first step towards saving money. Make a list of what you are looking for in a college experience, and find the cheapest way to meet most of your goals. Some students simply want to get a diploma while other students want an exciting campus life, specific location, and athletic and social opportunities. Determine what sacrifices you are willing to make to minimize your debt. Every student has to give up a luxury to afford college, so prioritize what you want in your college experience to make your decision.

Consider These Questions

Why is college important to me?

College means different things to different people. Is college important to you because it pushes you towards your dream job or is it important because you are the first in your family to attend? Answer questions like these to and pick why college is most important to you. Focus on campus qualities and a set of criteria and not brand names. The less attached you are to an institution the more options you will have when choosing a school.

Where do I see myself in 10 years?

If your dream job is a trade like construction or welding, paying $50k a year for college is unnecessary and uneconomical. Look for the best value for the education needed you’re your job. Doctors and engineers will pay more for a 4-year degree than general degrees. For general liberal arts degrees like English, education, communications etc. big-name schools are not important. Unless you want to be a doctor, or work in another high-demand field, avoid the brand names and the higher bill.

What do I want in my college experience?

Some students want independence, with flexible scheduling and a manageable work load to keep a part-time job. Other student want to fully submerge in the college atmosphere. These students want to eat, sleep, and play on campus. Students who fully immerse themselves in the college experience will have more debt than students willing to commute. Colleges cushion tuition to compensate for the lifestyle, so if you want the full experience there are options to make school more affordable.

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Last Reviewed: February 2020