There is a plethora of articles about college costs and how to pay them but little mention is made about college prep expenses. College financial aid doesn’t cover these and they can sizably pile up. Pre-college expenses can cut into personal financial resources way before a tuition bill arrives and add hundreds, even thousands to the total cost of obtaining a higher education degree. Thinking about pre-college costs now can help families plan where they are most likely to get the best return on their investment and allocate their money accordingly. Here are seven pre-college costs that can lead to big savings during and after college:
1. Standardized tests have fees. The PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests and ACT have set fees and students often take them more than once. The expense is there but so is the chance to get a break on college costs. High scorers may qualify for college scholarships. They also may be offered admission with more generous financial aid packages as compared to their poorer scoring peers. Although the list of test-optional schools is growing, many colleges still have SAT or ACT requirements.
2. AP and IB exams have fees. Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs charge students a fee for taking the exams. High schools often tout these as the most challenging and rigorous courses they offer. Doing well can impress college admissions officers by demonstrating college readiness. At many schools, this can lead to college credit and bypassing introductory college courses, both great college time and money savers.
3. Tutors have fees. Some libraries or high schools may offer free programs for individual subjects or test prep, but many tutors charge a fee for their services. If students need the extra help to pass a class or go to that next level, it may be the difference between getting into their college choice and qualifying for scholarships.
4. College visits can be costly. Depending on their location, visiting campuses can be a huge financial hit when they include lodging, meals and transportation. However, they can be the most influential reason for deciding student-college fit for applying and attending. When students do attend, families are one up on finding local stores offering student discounts, signing up for lodging and transportation loyalty programs, and knowing where to make hard to get reservations for crowded times like move in/out, family and graduation dates.
5. Colleges have application fees. This is where a good and succinct college list can pay off immediately. Weigh this against a longer list of greater possibilities but not necessarily better ones.
6. College consultants, financial aid counselors, and scholarship experts have fees. There is a lot of free information available about choosing colleges, writing essays, preparing for interviews, and filling out admission and aid applications but all this may not assist families with unique or difficult issues. A trusted advisor may be essential for them.
7. Student loans have fees and interest charges. Interest and fees add to the overall cost of the loan but federal and state loan forgiveness programs can turn all or a portion of borrowed cash into money that doesn’t have to be paid back. Check out the qualifications necessary like a certain career, length of time in the position and job location before considering borrowing to use as a powerful planning tool.
Note, there are fee waivers for qualifying low income students. But most will pay full fare so it is important to decide where to invest those valuable pre-college dollars and where to save the cash for college attendance.
Read Suzanne’s post: Scoring FREE Pre-College Costs
This high school test means college money
Getting a student loan? Check out forgiveness programs
How to pass the college affordability test (CAT)
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