Counting costs

Do you have the money you need to pay for college?

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for college is to make a solid financial plan. Figuring out how you are going to pay for your education may seem like a daunting task, but taking the following 5 steps can help you estimate your college costs and the options available to help you pay for them:

  1. Complete the FAFSA. Regardless of your income, you should fill out and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All federal financial aid and most state and institutional aid require the FAFSA to be completed.
  2. Estimate your total college costs. Use the Net Price Calculator on your college’s website or this one from The College Board to estimate your total college costs based on your personal situation. Don’t forget expenses like room and board, gas, bills, supplies, or other things while you’re tallying up costs.
  3. Determine if you need additional funding. Carefully assess all of the award letters you received to determine what the actual costs for each school would look like, and the financial aid you’ll receive.  See page 8 of Your Financial Aid Journey to figure out how much additional funding you may need.
  4. Explore additional financing options. If you do need additional funding, your college may be able to accept your tuition in installment payments, or you may be able to take out a Federal Direct PLUS Loan or a private student loan. Be sure to carefully research all of your options before making a decision that fits your situation.
  5. Know your financial aid deadlines. As you receive information from your school about enrollment and financial aid deadlines, create a checklist and keep track of time-sensitive items.

Remember, the more details you include in your plan, the more accurate your estimates will be.

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