What High School Seniors Should Know About Paying for College

There is plenty to read about, when it comes to what high school seniors should know about paying for college. The more you can learn, grasp and understand, the better off your finances will be when you make the transition to higher learning.

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What You Should Know About Paying for College

You're getting ready to cross the stage for your diploma, and to you that means you're an adult - but are you on top of your college finances? There are many misconceived ideas about tuition and other expenses. Know your options and limitations when entering college to help avoid major sticker shock.

If you're a high school senior soon heading off to the world of higher education, you might have fallen prey to one of several dangerous misconceptions about paying for college. Use our guide below to help navigate your way out of these turbulent waters and take control of your finances like a real adult.

I'll Go to College Later, After I've Saved

Huh? Take it from someone with a master's degree - don't put off what you can do now. Plus, according to FinAid.com, tuition inflation increases by eight percent each year. In other words, the cost of tuition doubles every nine years. Of course we expect costs to go up because of inflation, but take this into consideration - college tuition inflates at twice the amount that everything else does.

I'll Pay for College with a Scholarship

No matter how good your grades are, there are always others applying for the same scholarships as you, and their grades may be better than yours. Plus, most scholarships are dependent on your income and whether you'd be working towards a 2-year or 4-year degree. Typically, a scholarship will not cover the entire cost of your tuition. This doesn't mean, however, that you should give up on scholarships altogether. Just don't assume they'll pay for the entire cost of college.

Financial Aid Will Cover All Costs

Currently, College Board reports that the average private school tuition and fees at a four-year college come to $31,231 (this doesn't include room and board). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average amount of financial aid for a non-profit, private four-year school year was $17,040, in grant and scholarship aid at all income levels, as of 2011-2012. For all institutions, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid, at all income levels, was $9,740. See the difference? You must understand that while some students can have their college costs covered, many are still responsible for at least half.

Community Colleges Are a Waste of Time

A 2-year degree might appear minimal, in terms of worthiness, to a student with a bachelor's degree or higher. Although the standards of an education at a community college may seem lower, the cost outweighs any negative connotations. According to College Board, yearly tuition and fees for in-district, public 2-year colleges is $3,347, on average. This is much more affordable than the average of $22,958, per year in tuition and fees, for a four-year college for out-of-state students.

Private Colleges Are Worth the Money

We're fed the idea that private schools are always better than public schools because the latter lack funds and have to follow government standards that we often believe are sub-par. Maybe you wear your private school colors with pride, but the truth is that many public universities offer an education that's just as good as their private counterparts. And with tuition at half or even a third of the price, it's not a bad idea to give your public state college another look.

I Won't Need Money in College Because Everything Is Paid for

Do you wear deodorant? For the sake of your dorm-mate, let's hope so. Even if you don't, do you like to hang out with friends, give gifts at holidays or buy coffee? Everyday living expenses are not covered by financial aid, so it's wise to get a job or receive a stipend from your parents. Whether you need gas for your car, highlighters from the bookstore or want to eat at a restaurant with your boyfriend/girlfriend, you'll need cash.

Work-Study Is for Poor Students

Your parents may seem wealthy and you may have had a privileged childhood, but college is expensive, even for the affluent. Don't turn your nose up at the idea of working through college. Work-study can be a part of your financial aid package. You'd be foolish to pass it up, because it's money you earned and is exempt from taxes, depending on the amount of hours you work. Not only will work-study cover additional personal costs, but it's also a learning experience and an opportunity to grow and meet people.

Refunds Are Free Money

If you receive a check in the mail from your school or the government, it's not free money. These checks are typically refunds from excessive loans that you have taken out in your financial aid package. This money will accrue interest, so it's a good idea to return it to the lending institution to pay off the principle. Don't waste this money on shopping or eating out. It's like having a credit card but in the form of cash. It'll need to be repaid eventually.

Now that we've shattered your misconceptions, don't give up. Find out how to make your scholarship essay stand out.

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