Hope for your financial life and beyond

The Hidden Costs of College: How to Manage the Incidentals

costs of collegeMy alma mater, Cedarville University in Ohio, has a favorite destination that attracts students each and every day while school is in session – Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs. It’s definitely one of the hidden costs of college because I had no idea how much time I would spend there. It seemed like once a week someone in my dorm would yell, “Hey, we are making a Young’s run. Who’s coming?”

Boy, that was always tempting. Seemed like it always came at the right time too. You know…at 9 o’clock at night when your punching out that term paper and your stomach is rumbling. So what college student could resist a grilled cheese, fries and milkshake in that moment?

Defining Hidden Costs of College

Those late night snack runs are one example of the hidden costs of college. They are hidden because we miss factoring them into the overall expense of college. Students and parents focus on the big college numbers that are causing so much trouble: tuition, fees, room and board and forget there are a bunch of little incidentals that, when taken cumulatively, add up to big dollars.

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5 Life Changing Moments That Lead to Lifestyle Inflation

In simplest terms the concept of lifestyle inflation refers to a person’s spending going up as their income goes up.

lifestyle inflationSome lifestyle inflation may be unavoidable but it’s a good thing to keep it in check as much as possible. Otherwise you end up living paycheck to paycheck and having little or no money let over to pay down debt, save for retirement and use for other investments.

When a person is at that point, with no money left to create a cushion, life gets really stressful.

Moments of Lifestyle Inflation

We can be drawn to increase our lifestyle at any point in life. As I see it though, there are five instances when we are most susceptible to increasing our spending. Here’s how it often works.

1. After college graduation at the first real job

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Choosing the Right College Starts by Answering These Questions

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What questions about college should I ask?

Choosing a college at 18 years of age presents a daunting challenge. For most high school students, the decision represents the most difficult one they’ve ever made. With so many choices, it’s easy to lose a few hours of sleep trying to sort it all out.

Information from the College Board shows there are approximately 4,000 private and public, two or four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Whittling that number down to a manageable few is some task. How can a high school student narrow their list so they can select the right school?

I did it by asking questions.

The questioning process wasn’t easy and didn’t produce a quick decision. However, the answers to my questions helped reduce my list to six schools. That group was subsequently lowered to three, of which I selected Cedarville University in Ohio. In retrospect, the selection proved to be the perfect choice for me.

There are many factors and dimensions of a college to consider. The following questions, focused in specific areas, will serve as a filtering mechanism to develop and narrow the list of schools based on your needs and desires.

Location

Ask these questions when considering the physical location of the school:

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18 Ways to Reduce College Costs, Plus One Huge Bonus Tip

In case you missed it, in Part I of this series covering college costs, I talked about the five most popular ways students pay for college.

college costsThe focus today will be on reducing the total college costs in whatever way possible. Of course things like scholarships, grants and military funding are all givens as I discussed in Part I. But what other practical things can a student do to bring down college costs?

I’ve divided the cost cutting topics into three categories: things that can be done in high school, things that can be done in the preparation phase and things that can be done while enrolled in college.

And at the end I’ll provide one bonus tip on how to dramatically reduce the cost of college.

Cut College Costs While in High School

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The Basics of How to Pay for College

how to pay for collegeIn my years as an educator, I’ve always enjoyed the months of February and March. Basketball tournaments are in full swing, winter mercifully comes to an end and spring (break) is right around the corner. These are also the months when high school seniors begin to solidify their plans and make THE DECISION on where to attend college.

It’s quite a relief to finally answer with certainty the two big questions everyone has been asking – “Where are you going to school?” and “What are you going to major in?”  I was never so glad to put those questions to bed and that uncertainty behind me.

However, the question nobody asks is probably the biggest of them all – “How are going to pay for that?”

Unfortunately, many high school students and their families haven’t adequately thought about how to pay for college. They’ve spent so much time on the other two questions they’ve left out the most fundamental aspect of going to school – the fact that it costs money. If they haven’t thought about it until the last minute it can be a very daunting challenge to figure out.

Heck, it’s daunting even if you’ve been planning for years. Have you seen the cost of a four-year degree recently? It’s enough to make even the most financially sound shudder. We started setting aside money for college when my oldest turned five and I still don’t know if there will be enough to cover the costs of four years for four children.

The Basic of How to Pay for College

Whatever your situation – whether you’ve been saving for years or have just begun to think about it – you have to develop a plan. With that in mind, here is Part I of two on how to pay for college and reduce the costs of a higher education. These are the six top things you can do:

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How to Choose a Career: 6 Tips For Making the Right Choice

how to choose a career“So what’s going to be your major when you go to college?” The question annoyed and frustrated me as an 18-yr. old high school senior. I had no idea how to choose a career at that age. Nothing had ever seemed to jump out at me.

So, when asked, I’d sheepishly throw out a few ideas.  Then say I was just going to take the required core classes my freshman year of college to get those out of the way. Everyone seemed to think that was a good idea.

College did indeed open up a new world of vocational options for me – careers that I had never considered before. My first two quarters were spent getting adjusted to school and meeting new friends. Still nothing overly intrigued me. Business management? Optometry? Finance? Ministry? What direction should I go?

Then, to satisfy a general ed requirement, I took Intro to Psychology in the spring quarter.

I was hooked.

Learning about the intricacies of the human mind fascinated me – how it functions and how we interact with other people. “Plus, I’m a good listener,” I thought. “That should come in handy in that field, right?” So by fall quarter of my sophomore year I was a full-fledged Psych major with a dual emphasis in counseling and child and family studies.

Just to be clear in case you missed that – I made that decision based on one class and the fact that I was a good listener.

But was it the right decision?

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Ways to Pay For College – Should I Work or Do SAT Prep?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the cost of attending college is spiraling out of control. It has led many to question whether a four-year degree is even worth it. Others are looking for ways to pay for college without going into too much debt.

These numbers published by the College Board in the fall of 2012 bear this point out:

“Average published tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased from $8,256 in 201112 to $8,655 in 201213. The 4.8% ($399) increase in tuition and fees was accompanied by a $325 (3.7%) increase in room and board charges for students living on campus. At $9,205, room and board charges account for more than half of the total charges for these students.”

ways to pay for college

Spend more time studying and less time working

So that’s an average of $17,461 for room and board at an in-state, public four-year school. No wonder, the high cost of higher education has left many parents and teenagers frustrated and seemingly with just a few options on ways  to pay for college.

Many high school students take the logical step of securing summer employment to help them earn money  to pay for college. If a student can earn $3,000 – $4,000 over the course of the summer to put towards college that would help, right? It certainly would but I’m going to suggest today that you have another alternative that a) you probably won’t like because it requires studying, but b) will probably provide more bang for your buck than working at a summer job.

One of the Best Ways to Pay for College

Instead of working over the summer, study to improve your SAT (or ACT) scores and watch the money roll in.

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Scary College Debt Statistics

In case you missed it, the cost of a college education is increasing dramatically. Public and private colleges alike are increasing tuition significantly, many because of state budget cuts. This has left many high school seniors in a bind. For years they have heard the media, their parents, their teachers and counselors say the best way to get a decent job with good pay is to earn a college degree. But now they wonder how they can afford it.

The Institute for College Access and Success’ Project on Student Debt conducted a recent survey that gives us insight into how students are paying for a college education. The results are astonishing and scary.

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