4 Things You need to know about Paying for college

Being a college applicant is a busy job. You’ve got multiple applications to juggle, college tours/visits to go on, coursework to complete at school, and more. When it comes to finances, many students push this to the last minute because they are stressed even thinking about it! Here we provide 5 things you should know about paying for college.

1. Cost of Attendance, NOT tuition!

The biggest misconception we see is students/parents assuming that the tuition sticker price is the whole cost. This is simply false. There are other costs that add up to make the total Cost of Attendance.

For instance, at USC for the 2020-2021 school year, the tuition is listed as $59,260. However, the total cost of attendance is $79,063. You read that right, almost $20,000 is added based on fees/accommodations. Here is the full breakdown for a student living on campus:

Tuition: $59.260
Fees: $1,015
Housing: $9,327
Dining/meals: $6,110
Books and Supplies: $1,200
Personal and Miscellaneous: $1,598
Transportation: $553
Total Cost of Attendance: $79,063

Note: Students who commute and live with parents are projected to pay $66,805 per year if they attend USC.

As with most schools, USC has added an estimate of personal/miscellaneous costs that the student will end up spending. Even so, $79,063 is a whole lot more than $59,260. That leads us to the next need-to-know fact.

2. Don’t forget to multiply by 4+

Many times, students and/or parents will look at the tuition cost and think Wow, that’s a lot. Even more often, people will forget that college is the cost of attendance x 4.

It typically takes at least four years to complete an undergraduate degree. Don’t forget that if the cost of attendance is $79,063, you’re likely going to pay that amount times 4.

$79,063 x 4 = $316,252

Why do we say “4+”? It isn’t uncommon for students to take 5 years or more to earn their degree. Whether it’s due to personal reasons, a double major, or limited class availability, some students need to pay for another year. That’s why planning your schedule and courses well in advance is highly advised, considering it can save you a lot of money down the line.

3. how will i ever afford college?

You’re now probably wondering how you may ever afford this major investment into your future. There are a few things to consider first. Public schools cost less money than private schools. USC is private, thus there is a steeper tuition compared to a school such as a UC Berkeley for example. For more information on public vs. private, please see our other post.

Regardless, most schools will give you a generous institutional scholarship or other type of funding to help you pay for college. If you have financial need, you can submit a FAFSA or CSS profile. These applications are encouraged by most schools, even if you think you may not qualify. When you submit a FAFSA, the schools you applied to will take your financial need into consideration when they look at giving out scholarships or institutional grants. You may also receive a grant from the government. This is money that does not need to be repaid. For more information on FAFSA/CSS, please see our other post.

If you do not have financial need, you still may be eligible to receive free scholarship money. Many schools, especially private schools, award merit-based scholarships. These scholarships look at your achievements, whether academic, extracurricular, leadership, diversity, or otherwise. Many schools automatically consider all applicants for scholarships when they submit their college application. Others may have a separate application requirement. That is why we recommend you do your research on each school and determine what you need. At Lizard, we do that research for you and compile the data so it’s easy for you to stay on top of what you need to submit.

4. any other way to save money?

A less common pathway that some students take is to attend a lower-cost college first and then apply to their intended university as a transfer student. Some people choose to attend a community college, where courses are far less expensive, to fulfill their general education requirements.

Then, once they have two years of their general education courses complete, they apply as a transfer student to a four-year institution. In that sense, they save a huge chunk of money by attending a low-cost school for two years, and then pay for two years at their intended university.

This may seem like the easiest route. However, the student needs to be extremely on top of their course requirements. You wouldn’t want to take two years of courses just to realize you are missing a requirement to transfer to your dream school. In addition, in this route, your community college transcript is the prime resource that admissions will evaluate. Admissions wants to see that you can excel at college-level coursework. You would need to be very on top of receiving fantastic grades for two years.

At Lizard, if a student needs to choose this route, we help them with course equivalencies and ensure that they are best prepared to apply as a transfer student.

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