The excitement of an admission letter can be overwhelming, but even that good news could be weighty. It’s not just the challenge of choosing the college or university that best fits your future dreams; it’s the giant question mark hanging over all of it: how will I ever afford this?
Higher education is expensive, and although it does tend to lead to higher earning power in the future, it could also lead to unwieldy student debt. Recent estimates from Collegeboard.org indicate that the cost of college has tripled at four-year institutions since 1990, and last year alone the cost increased just shy of 4%. As such, it’s important to gather solid information and make informed decisions about your educational future—those decisions are ultimately about your financial future, too.
Calculating the Costs: Before you determine your options, it helps to calculate the cost of your dream school and degree. Here are a few calculators that might help you get an idea of what the actual cost of your education might be:
- Our College Cost and Compare Calculator provides useful information in terms of both the sticker price of a particular college, but also the average financial aid awarded depending upon household income and state residency.
- Our Student Budget Analyzer is designed to help you create a better understanding of your actual costs—factoring in expenses, scholarships, and income.
- If you have time to prepare and save, we have a handy Saving for College Calculator which could help develop a long-term savings plan.
Scholarships: There are a variety of options for funding post-secondary education, but perhaps the best is to have someone fund it for you. While scholarships and grants don’t require you to repay them, they often come with conditions such as maintaining a certain GPA or involvement in a particular set of activities, completing a work study program, or fulfilling a similar commitment.
- Vantage hosts a Scholarship Finder on our website which searches over 3.5 million different scholarship opportunities.
- In addition, our Quest For Education (QFE) Scholarship helps support graduating high school seniors with their future education. The scholarship isn’t based on financial need, class rank, or SAT/ACT scores; rather, it’s meant to recognize those students who have been involved in their school and community and ultimately empower them to positively impact their communities in the future.
Student Loans: Before you think of loans, be sure that you have completed your FAFSA This form determines the financial aid available from both your school and the federal government—these two sources of funding are traditionally your best options to pay for your education, but of course, they only go so far.
When scholarships, grants, and federal student loans aren’t enough, a private student loan could help you get the money you need to fund higher education. We’ve partnered with Sallie Mae ® to offer loans created specifically for the needs of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as their parents.
Once you have that acceptance letter in your hand, there are some important choices ahead of you. Your educational dreams are intricately intertwined with your financial future—so be sure you have the correct information and a solid plan on funding your dream of higher education. Ask questions, request the numbers, and get an honest cost of living in order to determine the cost of each school; it’s also a good idea to be in touch with the school’s financial aid department as soon as you start making your decision.
Don’t forget you have resources available to help, whether our calculators or financial education programs. Vantage even has partnerships with experts such as Banzai and GreenPath Financial Wellness designed to help you get closer to your future financial goals.
Check out a complimentary webinar from GreenPath Financial Wellness about student borrowing and student debt on July 22 at 1 p.m.