Choosing the right college can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Adding finances into the discussion makes things more complicated. What are you considering when you’re looking at your financial fit? Are you just skimming the webpage with cost information and moving on? Are you searching for scholarships anywhere and everywhere? Are you digging into average salaries for careers relating to your major?
That’s all OK, but be sure to think of your financial fit as something bigger than any one factor. We think there are four big pieces to any student’s financial fit and, depending on your specific situation, some may be more important to you than others.
Getting a college degree can be expensive and any good conversation around finances should start with cost. That doesn’t mean that the conversation should end there, though. While learning about cost, be sure to think about the whole picture relating to your university experience. There are a lot of options out there, but know that cost can influence experience in many cases. For example, if you’re looking for a well-rounded university experience at a residential four-year university, the cost will likely be higher than that at a commuter school or in an online program.
One of the top-searched words on the CSU Admissions website is “scholarships”. We get it. Scholarships are incredibly important to make college attainable. Don’t let your search stop there, though. There are also grants, loans, and work study opportunities to consider, each with their own benefits and disadvantages. It’s important to consider all of your options and think about how your financial outlook may change as you progress through college. For example, the CSU Scholarship Application (CSUSA) has limited opportunities for freshmen students, but upperclassmen opportunities are plentiful.
Remember to search beyond your target universities for options, too. There are lots of organizations out there that offer scholarships from your local church to large nonprofits.
Cost and financial aid are sometimes the only two aspects of financial fit people consider, but the conversation is bigger than that. Family savings, summer jobs, smart budgeting, and even college credits earned through programs like Advanced Placement are great opportunities to offset more cost. Your strategies for paying for college will be extremely individual, and they can make a huge impact on making college an affordable option for you.
The college investment will likely be one of the biggest investments you ever make. It’s so important that it’s worth it. Ask your admissions counselors the tough questions about outcomes. Where are alumni working? What future salaries can you expect? What support does the university offer to help you find work? The most-important thing is that your college education helps you reach your goals personally and financially. Don’t forget to think about life after college while you are looking at financial fit.
Bonus: You’re not alone in this
Whether you’re just starting a conversation about financial fit or you’ve already done a lot of research, we’re here to help you. Contact your admissions counselor or the Office of Financial Aid to have a deeper discussion about what you can expect while you navigate finances and CSU.