Nobody really likes to talk about money, but it’s a very necessary conversation to have with yourself, your parents, and your college financial aid officer. Don’t avoid talking about the costs of college because according to Forbes, the collective college debt in the US is $1.6 trillion! On a smaller scale, owing several thousand dollars after college can be difficult to navigate and pay off, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into financially when you start college. Check out our list of costs to consider and some resources to learn more about the financial aspects of going to college.

  1. Consider the Value of College – Tuition affordability, quality of classes, graduation rate, and graduate earnings all factor into what the value of a college is. MONEY has compiled a list of the best colleges in the US ranked by value, so you can see if a college you want to attend or already attending is on this list.
  1. Scholarships and Grants – Are there scholarships and grants available at the college of your choice? Do you qualify for any of these options? Are there any other outside scholarships and grants you can apply for? Check out our resourceful blog post on this very topic. There may also be financial aid grants in your state. For example, Illinois offers the MAP grant as long as you complete your FAFSA and qualify. On the federal level, the Pell Grant depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) determined by your FAFSA application.
  1. Financial Aid and Loans – You may need extra help with paying for your education, so as long as you fill out the FAFSA, financial aid can certainly help! Maximize your aid by reading our informative blog post. You may need to take out loans to cover any remaining costs for your college. There are subsidized and unsubsidized loans, which you can learn more about in this article. Don’t forget that you’ll need to pay these loans back with interest once you graduate! You can opt to pay the interest while you’re in school, but you will need some cash to do so.
  1. Books and Supplies – You’ll need books and other materials for your college courses, which, of course, cost money. Each year you could spend an average of $1,200 on books depending on your major. You can save money by renting or buying second-hand books, but sometimes the most recent course book in necessary and required, so you may have to pay full price. You’ll also need some kind of computer like a laptop or convertible tablet, which cost between $500 and 2,000 depending on the quality (new, used or refurbished), but you’ll want it to last you at least a few years into your degree. Certain softwares may be required for your classes, but many of these softwares like Adobe and Microsoft have student discounts.
  1. Housing and Other Fees – Many people think of tuition as the major expense of college, but what about the other “hidden” fees you don’t think about? This could be housing costs like living in the dorms during your first few years, which usually includes a meal plan, on which you could spend $8,000 to nearly $11,000 per year alone! Not to mention the cost to live in an apartment or other off-campus housing if you don’t want to pay for the dorms. Going to a college close to home will save you money in the long run. Don’t forget about activity and club fees as well as fraternity/sorority dues if you choose to join campus clubs!
  1. Transportation – Are you living at home during college? You’ll need a way to get to campus unless you live within walking distance. Perhaps you have public transportation that will get you there like a train or bus, but those still cost money as well as if you need a car. Maybe your parents will let you borrow a car or will drive you to campus, but there’s still the cost of gas and insurance. If you live on campus, you’ll need a way to get home for breaks. Maybe it’s a bus or a friend can drive you or you may need to book a flight, but these modes of transportation cost money. According to My College Guide, students on average spend around $1,000 going from campus to home and back.

We hope this list of costs wasn’t too overwhelming and please don’t panic at the costs of college. College is a good investment as long as you have the motivation to complete and use your degree for your future endeavors! We advise that you make a list of these costs whether you have exact numbers or approximate and create a budget for college. Then, weigh the amount of debt (if any) against your desire and need for a college degree. You may need to have a part-time job during college, which can be doable.

If you don’t think a college degree will help you succeed, then look for alternative options like career training programs, apprenticeship programs, trade schools, and certificate programs.

Come back to the Future Blog for more articles on college and career success!