Adults aren’t the only ones who have put in a hard year’s work. Many high school students are finishing up their senior years on the tail end of a pandemic.
They’ve had to make adjustments and lost out on some significant milestones. But, with vaccinations on the way and safety protocols easing up, many graduates want to spend the upcoming summer unwinding. The relieved rising freshmen want nothing more than to sleep in late and spend their free time having fun with friends. However, the work doesn’t end with graduation for these former high school students or those returning to college for another year.
Recent students aren’t the only ones who are campus-bound, either. There’s a whole other “class” of potential college attendees who have been in the workplace and come out determined that more education will benefit their future. No matter which of these transitions an individual is experiencing, there are important tasks you can take on now to fully prepare financially to hit the campus in just a few months.
Taking on the Workload
Many college students today have no choice but to rely on borrowing in order to pay for tuition and other costs covered under various government loan programs. Some are fortunate to receive scholarships due to excellent scholastics or special skills they possess. In addition, many college students work to help support the hefty cost of today’s education, with recent numbers showing 43% of full-time students and 81% of part-time students employed.
Despite loans, scholarships, and even financially supportive families, costs to attend college today are difficult to manage, going way beyond just tuition, room, and board. Think about it - few of the typical living costs disappear when one walks onto a college campus or dials into an online course. Deciding to pursue a college degree (or two or three of them) means making some concessions for sure. However, life does go on with all of its demands, needs, and wants regardless of your environment. The only difference is that it’s hard for a full-time student to juggle a full-time workload and see success in both.
Aside from the tuition, room, and board, which most would consider the highest costs of attending college, here’s a list to remind all hoping to head to school in the near future of what to plan for in the budgeting process:
· Books – yes, textbooks can cost up to $1,000 per semester. Whew! Read up and find ways to cut those costs ahead of time.
· Technology and connectivity – there will be ongoing costs for cellular phones and plans, computers, internet access, and all other gadgets and services.
· Major requirements – each major rings up its own unique set of charges. It’s wise to research what your studies might demand, like specific papers for art majors or lab fees for those earning chem degrees.
· Travel, transportation, and parking – the cost of maintaining a vehicle on a campus can be pretty significant. You have parking fees doled out on crowded campuses like candy, as well as individual costs. That means fuel, maintenance, and insurance charges go with your student to college. Without a car, reliance on rideshare services and public transportation may become a reality – with all the associated costs. Then there’s also the occasional trip home to visit friends and family. All of this requires serious planning ahead of time.
· Medical expenses – most individuals going to college get sick now and then. The mere stress and hours associated with maintaining the rigorous schedule of school, work, and family for some often render folks ill and in need of a doctor. Health services and even possibly relatively inexpensive health insurance may be available through a university. Hopefully, it will remain true that students under twenty-six years of age will access health insurance and healthcare through a parent’s policy. However, be sure to check with your work – even part-time employers may offer limited insurance for part-time team members.
· Food and entertainment – it’s a dream to think any college student will simply sit in a dorm room or apartment, always eat at the cafeteria or a meal plan station, and never go out with friends. Plotting out some manageable but fun opportunities to eat out or enjoy entertainment is the only realistic way to do this.
· Clothing and personal items – the need to update the wardrobe does not end at the door of the university campus. Personal items such as shampoo, toothpaste, and razors are still needed, and there must be a plan to ensure these items are accessible to the student. Watching for sales and coupons may help in this particular area with some additional effort. Maybe the family can “gift” monthly store or VISA cards to purchase these items.
And don’t forget that holidays and special occasions requiring at least a greeting card and maybe a gift go on while in college. Rummaging around for cash at the holidays or when Mother’s Day approaches has its own special stress related to it. Friends and family keep on having annual or surprise moments, so it’s important to include everyone.
A Passing Grade
Before panic or depression set in, rest assured there is a way to manage all of this. Moreover, now is the ideal time to think through how to cover all those unexpected college costs. With summer on the horizon, maybe soon-to-be college students can take on additional work hours or another part-time job to save extra money ahead of entering school. More than anything, you want to keep a close eye on your spending habits during the first or upcoming year. Then turning those numbers into a realistic spending plan will assure that the student can learn and focus, hopefully minus any significant surprises.
No one’s surprised when everyone is on the same page, either. So, if you’re in charge of a student’s financial habits for the foreseeable future, keep them in the loop. Introduce them to the plan and how you’ve saved up for their education in the first place. Working as a team encourages responsibility and help your student learn lessons outside the classroom, too.