A Good Deal Goes Beyond the Numbers

College websites should for the most part, address any questions you may have about the school. If not, try another popular and useful site: Facebook. Although the campus may be on the other side of the country, this popular social networking site allows students to query or join helpful groups. Here are a few more subjects to factor in to determine if your child’s prospective school is a sound financial investment and will offer them the best collegiate experience.

Curriculum

Declaring a major typically does not need to be completed until the latter part of sophomore year or beginning of junior year. It doesn’t hurt to have some idea of prospective majors- this will drastically affect what schools they apply to.

If your child has always wanted to be an engineer but two of the schools on their wish list don’t offer that major, remove those from the list. This will avoid throwing money on a future college transfers?

When your child has established an idea for their intended coursework, check out the college’s school for that particular subject; it will house many majors in the case they decide to pursue another avenue; there will be ample areas to pursue with their credits.

For the students who are strongly undecided in their field of study, a large state school should be considered, as there are many major options.

Faculty

You want your child to learn as much as possible during their time in college and as such, they should be educated by the top professionals in the field. Hone in on, and have them get connected with the most professional, prestigious educators for the best tips.

A quick online search should yield sufficient information such as: alma mater, degrees offered, majors/disciplines, classes and faculty information.

Classes at the general education level are excellent for this because they are geared toward first-year students that may or may not be extremely familiar with the subject matter. If your background is in accounting, you may register for a course outside your undergraduate curriculum. If the professor prompts strong interest in the subject, your child will enjoy learning to its fullest degree, which is the best investment made. However, if the professor solely reads PowerPoint slides in a monotone voice, your child may elect to skip the class in favor of a nap, which wastes precious funds.

To be clear, the methods of one professor won’t reflect that of all educators on the campus so survey a few classes or log on to sites rating professor performance to ensure your investments are worthwhile.

Housing

Though there are stereotypical ideas as to how glorious dorms should be, the general college dormitory will not be as extravagant with on-campus housing. It will consist of sharing 11’-by-14’ room with at least one roommate and a bathroom with residents from their entire floor.

Some schools offer freshman-only housing replete with first year experience programs but will cost more than the average dormitory. There are different debates as to whether or not these extra fees are worth it but realistically, most freshmen will not have their optimal choice in housing and will end up in a common dorm and gain the same experience, at a lesser cost.

As the years pass, your child will have access to other housing options such as suites or on-campus apartments. Living there will be more expensive, but off-campus housing is far less expensive. Make sure the neighborhood is safe and the building is structurally sound with a legitimate lease if you’ll be the one paying the rent.

Of course, if the university is close to your home, offer commuting as an option. It will save you the thousands of dollars that would have gone toward room and board – money you could put toward next semester’s tuition or use to help your child purchase a reliable vehicle to get them to and from campus. Of course, you may have to work out some new rules or compromise on some old ones once your child starts displaying their independence.

Cuisine

Perhaps not as healthy or homey as the traditional home-cooked meals, dining hall meals will likely be the main source of nourishment for first and second year students. How does one determine the right meal plan or funds for food?

We’ve all heard of, maybe experienced, the Freshman 15 but if not, it’s the weight a college freshman gains during their first year brought on by easy-access and relatively unhealthy food. When parents aren’t there to restrict or prepare meals, extra calories add up quickly. Many schools are aware of this trend and have done their best to alleviate the problem by offering healthier cuisine choices – a relief to waistlines.

If the dining halls at your child’s preferred college seem to have their menus in order, paying for a meal plan is a no-brainer but choose wisely: The unlimited plan is appealing because you know your child will never be without nourishment but students often skip meals if they are running late or have a class during mealtimes. To save without starving, consider the second or third dining plan options, which are less expensive but still offer plenty of access.

If meal choices at the college are less diverse, consider giving your child a stipend for off-campus dining at the beginning of the semester; this will force them to adhere to a budget and make informed dining choices while on campus and ration the stipend until they come home for break. This is a great way to practice money management.

Last Edited: July 2015

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