When faced with the realities of attending college, many people tend to panic. Sure, the numbers seem high and that scares many people away from something that can be worth their while. However, you are best off seeing past your initial sticker shock and looking more at the realities of the situation when it comes to making the decision whether or not to attend college. This means taking the proverbial deep breath and looking at the question methodically and realistically. You may very well come to the conclusion that college is something that is within the realm of possibility for you. Here are some ways to break the situation down to make it more of a rational decision than an emotional one.
You may see a certain number listed as the all-in cost of a college education. In private schools, this can approach $80,000 each year now. Naturally, the inclination is to panic when you think the college will cost in the six figures. However, you should know that very few people end up paying the sticker price when it comes to a college education. At the expensive private schools, only the richest students are charged the full boat. Practically everyone else will get grants in order to make the cost of attending college more commensurate with their income. This is also true in less expensive state schools depending on your needs.
Nearly everyone receives financial aid for college costs. More and more, this financial aid is given in the form of grants instead of loans. While you may still have to make some sacrifices to pay for an education, it is unrealistic to expect that you will need to come up with several hundred thousand dollars to pay for college unless you already have it. Most people do not, and that is precisely why financial aid exists.
Certainly, you should never rule out college until you know exactly how much it is going to cost. For that reason, you should always apply first before making the final decision. After you get accepted to an institution, you will then find out how much you are expected to pay off the cost.
When you learn your total obligation, compare the number to your own financial situation. Look at this in terms of the ratio of your cost of attendance to your income and then factor in your own savings. You may get the bill and figure out that it is manageable in comparison to your own situation.
You should have your own definition of what manageable is based on your own expenses and obligations. In other words, if you have higher than usual expenses because of your own unique situation, you may not be able to afford as high of a payment as others. As a general rule of thumb, you should count on being able to afford roughly ten percent of your net take-home pay for college expenses.
Even if you have a certain financial situation today, it does not mean that it cannot change in a way that could permit you to afford college. In other words, there are ways to add to your resources. The financial aid decision is only the start of the process and you can get funding from sources other than the university. You may be able to qualify for a number of private scholarships that can reduce the cost of your attendance. Further, you can get a work-study job when you are on campus. The money that you earn can either be used towards your education or your living expenses. Even if you use them towards your living expenses, this reduces the amount that you will need to finance your education because many people end up borrowing to pay for the costs of their living. There is also the possibility of attending college classes at a time that will enable you to work more to pay for it.
You will likely need to dip into your savings to pay for college. Although this is something that many people hesitate to do, it is necessary for practically everyone. This is precisely why you have savings.
Finally, you can do as most people do and get student loans to pay for college. Interest rates are historically low right now, making loan payments more affordable than they have been in the past. If you are able to get federal loans, there will be income-based repayments that will keep you from having to pay more than you can afford on a monthly basis.
Of course, whether the current investment for college is worthwhile depends on how much your degree will help you make. Obtaining a degree in a lower-paying field may not justify the expense that you are taking on since it will not make much difference in your situation. If your degree will not lead to a measurable improvement in your income, college becomes a more difficult proposition.
This article is not intended to tell you to pick a major solely based on how much money you can earn. However, you should recognize that your choice of a major will impact affordability. Make sure to do your research before you make your choice to know the average earnings for each major. You should have a general idea of what you want to study and why you want to go to college so you can examine the possible earnings for each major.
In general, you should be forward-looking when it comes to making the decision about whether to attend college. In most instances, you will find that more often than not, the benefits of college merit the costs. Your additional earnings with a college degree will add up over the course of your lifetime even though you may feel some short-term financial pain. College can be pricey, but after a level-headed examination, you may ultimately decide that it is something that is within your reach. The most important thing is to be objective when making your decision.