A college degree is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy. It can leave you in debt for years, so you want to be as smart as you can about your education. When you attend college, you are "buying" a college degree, much as you purchase other big-ticket items. So, you want to make sure you get your money's worth.
Figuring out what college is going to cost
The U.S. Department of Education has a useful website called College Scorecard. You supply information about the type of degree you are looking for and locations or regions that you are interested in, and you'll receive results that show the average annual cost of tuition and fees at each matching institution, the graduation rate, and the annual average salary of their graduates. It's a great website for getting an overview and comparing what different colleges cost.
Another great place to research college pricing and student aid is at The College Board website. There is a wide variety in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country, so it can really pay to do your research.
Looking at online colleges? They can sometimes offer you more flexibility and easier access than traditional colleges. Check out Affordable Colleges Online to see, by state or by subject, which colleges offer affordable options.
Be sure to add in what your room and board costs will be, including your meal plan, books and supplies, and other personal expenses
Your Personal Resources
Before you apply for student aid or scholarships, you'll need to figure out the amount of money that you and perhaps your parents can afford. Some parents choose to contribute and others believe that it is the student's responsibility to pay for college.
If you are saving for college, the State of Oregon offers the Oregon College Savings Plan which provides tax advantages.
Federal Student Aid
If you plan to apply for aid, check and double-check the application deadlines. State and college aid may have earlier deadlines than federal aid. When you apply, you want to be in the first stack of applicants, not the last. You can check the federal and state application deadlines at www.fafsa.gov.
The first step to apply is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Financial aid experts recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA because it is used by colleges and grant-makers to figure out financial need.
The fastest way to fill out the FAFSA is online at www.fafsa.ed.gov, but you can also get paper forms at all our public library branches: Just ask at a reference desk. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. You'll need to have information about your financial situation and you or your parents' federal tax forms from the previous year at hand.
Using the information that you supply on the FAFSA, the financial aid office at your college will determine that amount of aid you may receive.