Tips for Parents Whose Kids are Entering College

August 31, 2015

After a child decides what colleges he or she wants to attend, it is time for parents to decide what they can afford. Since schools have varying rates and conditions for tuition, not all students' bills will be the same. Total costs vary based on academic pace, living arrangements and degree programs. A student's financial details are also considered if financial aid may be used. When it comes to preparing for college, parents should compare and discuss room, board and tuition costs as far in advance as possible.


Tuition

The main component of every college bill is tuition. This is the fee charged for taking a class, and the amount a student pays is often based on how many units or credits a class includes. Fees for undergraduate classes are less than those for graduate courses. In some cases, the fees per unit or credit may vary based on how many classes a student is taking. For example, some colleges may charge a higher tuition fee for students taking classes part time. In addition to this, many colleges charge resident students less for tuition. If a child wants to attend college out of state, higher tuition is a very important issue parents must consider.


Room

Some students may want to share an apartment off campus with others. However, this can be more expensive in some situations. In addition to this, many schools require freshmen to live on campus during their first year of college. However, there are often exceptions for students whose parents live within a short mileage radius of the school. Living on campus helps students get accustomed to college life and have access to more academic resources. Dorm charges are assessed each semester or term. If living off campus is less expensive and is permitted by the school, some parents may consider this option. When thinking about a child living off campus, remember to consider rent costs, utility bills, security deposits and the possibility of irresponsible roommates.


Board

Although many college students skimp on food, they have to pay for their meals separately from tuition and accommodations. Many campuses have a points system, which allows students to obtain food or drinks at on-campus stores or cafeterias using their points. Most schools also offer a wide variety of meal plans. While eating on campus may be slightly more expensive than dining at home for students who live off campus, the charges are predictable and are normally prepaid. This reduces the likelihood that students will make bad choices by repeatedly purchasing fast food. For parents who wonder if their kids will be eating regularly, prepaid meal plans offer peace of mind that the money cannot be spent on parties or unnecessary expenses. Parents who trust their students to spend wisely by living and eating off campus should help by tracking grocery expenses each month.


Many colleges and universities offer calculation tools or assistance for parents who are trying to plan expenses beforehand. In addition to this, counselors are able to offer an easy-to-understand summary of expected expenses. Parents who decide that financial aid will be needed should complete the paperwork as far in advance as possible.


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