When Applying To College, Consider the Price Tag

With so many options, and so little time, the college search process can be both exciting and overwhelming for high school students.

Finding a college that meets your needs may be one of the most important tasks that you’ve sought out to accomplish so far, so don’t take it lightly. In order to make the process as stress-free as possible, you should begin you college search early on in high school – ideally during your sophomore year.

While your high school counselors can help you evaluate colleges based on location, size, and selectivity, one major factor that is often forgotten about is the price tag!

Even though the current state of the economy isn’t the best, college tuition prices continue to rise, year after year. In fact, the cost of higher education has risen so quickly over the last few decades that it has surpassed the inflation rate and many families’ ability to afford it.

So what can you do to combat all of this? Here are a few tips:

1. Choose In-State Tuition

If you select an in-state college over an out-of-state college, you’ll save big on tuition and college expenses. If you’re worried about being able to afford college, then choosing an in-state school should be a top consideration.

2. Out-Of State Tuition WITH Financial Aid

It may make sense financially for you to attend an out-of-state school if you receive a lot of financial aid in the form of FREE money – i.e. grants and scholarships. This way, you can attend college and enjoy the experience, without having to worry about paying it all back upon graduation.

However, if you can’t afford out-of-state tuition without taking out a bunch of student loans, then you should probably avoid it. You don’t want to be stuck with a large about of student loan debt that you’ll have to repay after graduation.

After all, what if you can’t find a job right away? I’ll tell you one thing – that won’t stop those student loan bills from showing up in your mailbox!

3. Private vs. Public Institutions

It’s a fact…state colleges are less expensive than private institutions. Actually, on average, they’re about 20,000 dollars cheaper. However, there are some pro’s and con’s to both of them. If you prefer smaller class sizes, enjoy having professors instead of TA’s, and have generous parents who can help you pay for it (like I did), then you might be able to afford a private university without breaking the bank.

However, if you like the idea of a large university, don’t mind large lecture halls, and could care less if you never say one word to your professor, then you should probably choose a public institution. You should be able to afford it (even if you don’t get grants and scholarships) by working a job and taking out a limited amount of student loans.

To learn more about the differences between Public vs. Private Institutions, read this post: “Public vs. Private: What’s the Difference?

4. Community and Technical Colleges

If you’re trying to avoid the financial strain of a 4-year university right after high school, then a community or technical college might be a good option for you. Not only do the lower price tags of these schools make them more attractive to students, but there are so many other benefits.

For example, if you already know what career path you’re going to follow, your local community or technical college could offer specialized degree programs and/or certificates in that particular field. These programs are highly specialized and encourage hands-on learning over general education courses. You might even find that an associate’s degree or certificate is all you need to enter into the career you’re trying to pursue.

Final Thoughts

The college you select and its associated price tag can affect you for the rest of your life. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider all of the things we’d discussed above.

Don’t waste time at a college that’s not right for you; instead, take your time to thoroughly evaluate all the colleges on your list to make sure that they meet all of your criteria – particularly when it comes to the topic of affordability.

Don’t make college more of a financial burden than it has to be. Do your research…it’s well worth the time and effort.

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TheCollegeHelper

TheCollegeHelper

Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

2 Responses to “When Applying To College, Consider the Price Tag”

  • W. Kent Barnds on January 12, 2012

    Much of the content in this article is good, but the headline is misleading and causes me as an enrollment professional and student advocate a great deal of concern. Most students (even with the advent of the Net Price Calculator) will not know the “price” of a college when they apply. To identify price as driver of to which college students should apply is not good advice. It should be among the factors, but as a leading factor it is one that is often misleading and leads to a significant amount of under-matching because students eliminate college in their search process before they have all of the facts. Net cost is a far more important factor than price. At my own institution, Augustana College, there is one price and 1,521 different costs to attend.

    Respectfully,

    W. Kent Barnds
    Vice President of Enrollment
    Augustana College,
    Rock Island, Illinois

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on January 12, 2012

      Hi W.Kent,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I don’t think I convey in the post that price should be a “leading factor,” instead I was trying to highlight that it should be one of or “among” (as you stated) the factors that students should consider during the college application process.

      I think we’re on the same page; I agree that letting price alone dictate which colleges a student applies to is a bad idea.

      In fact, in my post – Paying for College: 6 Financial Aid Myths, I state the following:

      “The “sticker price” of some schools can be deceiving. Oftentimes, the school has aid available to make tuition and related expense more affordable to students and their parents. So, don’t let the “sticker price” scare you; just apply to the school anyway and wait for the financial aid award letter to come in the mail. You might be surprised by the outcome.”

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! I welcome your feedback on other posts.

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