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Understanding Tuition and Other Costs

Selecting the right college for yourself or your child entails numerous factors. High on the list of considerations is the cost, which varies widely among schools.

If you are looking to apply to a college, you first need to find out how much it charges for tuition and fees. You also have to know the price tag for room and board, as well as books and supplies. Here is some information to aid you in understanding tuition and other costs involved in a college education.

Tuition

Tuition is the fee charged for the actual college education, charged by the semester or quarter. It is the sum you pay to sit in classrooms and be taught by qualified professors. Students who live in the same state as the school usually pay about half the tuition rate charged to out-of-staters.

Private schools typically have steeper tuition rates than those charged by public colleges. Students pursuing majors in science, engineering, computers, medicine, and the fine arts often are assessed higher tuition.

While the rate of increase in the cost of tuition slowed in 2013, the price continues to rise. Average in-state tuition that year in the United States was $8,893 at four-year, public universities and colleges; and $30,090 at private post-secondary schools.

The highest tuition rates in 2013-14 were at colleges in New Hampshire and Vermont, while the most affordable institutions were in Wyoming and Alaska. Half of full-time students at four-year institutions paid less than $10,300 in tuition and fees in 2012-13, according to the College Board.

Remember that those figures represent the initial cost, before financial aid and student loans are factored into the equation. Pell grants and other federal programs are available. Colleges and universities offer scholarships, as well as reduced rates for low-income students.

U.S. News & World Report compiled a ranking of “best value schools,” taking into account academic quality and tuition rates. The top five were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While these universities charge relatively high tuition rates, significant financial aid is available.

Fees

In addition to tuition, colleges and universities charge a wide array of fees. The first ones you have to pay are the registration and orientation fees. There are also fees for parking spaces, library access, student union membership, recreational facility use, laboratory supplies, access to computers, and student activities.

This is a partial list, as each college has different fees. Waivers for certain types of fees are sometimes available. Speak with the college’s financial-aid administrator about any assistance for which you may be qualified.

Many colleges total their fees and charge a single sum, along with tuition. The College Board reported that the average cost of tuition and fees in the 2012-13 school year was $8,655 for in-state students at public colleges and $29,056 for those attending private schools.

Room and Board

Another significant expense involves student housing and food. The amount varies widely, depending on the sort of housing and meal plan you choose. For instance, simple dorms are cheaper than large apartments. Your room may have a bathroom, or you could have to share bathing facilities down the hall. You can save money by living with more than one roommate.

Colleges and universities generally lump the cost of housing and meals, also called room and board, into a single expense. The average amount in 2012-13 was $9,205 at public schools and $10,462 at private institutions.

An option is to buy a meal plan, but live off campus. You may want to commute from your old home, or rent an apartment (by yourself or with other students).

Books and Supplies

Students also have to come up with money for books and supplies. They must buy textbooks, reference books, and other printed materials. Required supplies include notebooks, file folders, pens, and pencils.

The average cost of these items in the 2012-13 school year reportedly was $1,200 at public colleges and $1,244 at private schools.

Total Cost

According to the College Board, in-state students at public colleges paid an average of $22,261 during the 2012-13 school year for tuition, fees, supplies, meals, and housing. The organization reported that a “moderate” budget for a private college that year was $43,289.

In deciding which colleges to consider, you need to know how much they charge for everything. Then, find out about the financial aid you might be able to get. Understanding tuition and other costs may help get you into the best college you can afford.

Applying for Financial Aid and Scholarships in the US

If you are an American student or permanent resident, understandably you would be applying for Financial Aid and scholarships as a part of your application processes. This can be very complicated and mystifying. Applying for financial aid and scholarships can seem much more complicated than applying for school itself. This is because if you choose to apply for financial aid (rather than just simply paying out of pocket) it is a process that can involve multiple government entities, your school, as well as your parents. To further explain the process we will go through the proper steps of applying for financial aid.

1. Complete Your Taxes

By completing your taxes you will ensure that the information you need to apply for financial aid is both accurate and complete. Sure, you can apply to FAFSA without completing your taxes but that severely complicates matters quite a lot as you will then have to go back and provide additional documentation as to what your income actually officially was. Completing your taxes before applying for financial aid makes things much more straightforward.

2. Register for the Selective Service

If you are a male from ages 18-25 in the United States you must register for the Selective Service prior to receiving any financial aid. The Selective Service is a system which drafts men into the military during a crisis. Failure to register can result in significant fines and jail time. Females are not required to register at this time.

3. Apply for your FAFSA PIN

Both students and parents then need to apply for a FAFSA PIN, or Personal Identification Number. Applying for a PIN is a relatively straightforward process. They will ask you simple questions such as your name, social security number, gender, date of birth, address, phone, email, etc.

4. Apply for FAFSA

Once you have applied for your PIN and filed your taxes you can finally sit down and apply for federal aid using the FAFSA. Make sure you have your tax returns for both parents as well as student. Also make sure that you have any necessary information such as social security numbers. If you are a permanent resident or in the process of being granted asylum you will be asked to provide your alien registration number in addition to a social security number. When applying you will also be asked to supply the school code number for any colleges you have applied to. See your advisor if you need that number. Make sure to answer the questions honestly; not answering the questions honestly could have very negative consequences including jail time as well as fines.

5. Complete the Rest of the Financial Aid Package

Often in addition to the FAFSA your college will have their own financial aid paperwork and forms for you to complete. Your school may have additional merit or need-based scholarships for those who may qualify.

6. Search for Outside Sources of Aid

The last and most interesting step of the financial aid process includes applying for outside sources of financial aid. This can be in the form of many different grants and scholarships from businesses or charitable institutions. When you start searching for other sources of financial aid it may be of help to have a list of your accomplishments. Also make sure to mention any academic accomplishments or awards given by community groups.

7. Patiently Await Results

Usually it takes several weeks for FAFSA results to come in. The school will then receive the report and use the rest of the FAFSA information as well as their other forms to complete your financial aid package. The entire financial aid process can take several months from start to finish, including the applications for outside scholarships.

All in all, applying for financial aid is tough but it is worth it! If you have any questions be sure to see your school’s financial aid personnel with any concerns you may have.

Earning and Studying - A Tough Balance

Attending college can be an expensive undertaking, but this should not stop you from pursuing your dreams. College expenses have grown steadily over the years, putting costs out of the reach of the average person. Thankfully, student loans and financial aid provided by the colleges can help a lot. For some programs, however these might not be enough.  Some people prefer to leave college without having debts.

For these individuals, working while attending college is the best option. Make no mistake about it, for some people it is very difficult to stay on top of your schoolwork while holding down a job.  Here are a few tips that can help you succeed at studying while working.

Communicate with the Relevant Persons

If you are already working, this should not stop you from applying for and attending college. If your job has flexible hours, discuss your college plans with your employer. It may be possible to reduce or change your hours, allowing you time to attend classes and to study. This way you can keep earning a salary and still have enough time for school.

If you need to get a job while already attending college, talk to your college advisors and lecturers. This will not be new to them, and many of them understand that students may miss or be late for classes due to their job. Sometimes you may be given extra time to hand in assignments or you may be allowed to have someone record the lectures for you.

Examine the Class Schedule

Knowing what your class schedule will be like is important for the working college student. This will help you plan your work, class and study hours.

Proper Time Management

Time management can make or break any type of plan, and it is especially important for working college students. If you want to attend college while working, you will have to good time management skills so that you make the best use of your time. You should create a schedule that includes your job, class times, family and social activities like clubs.

Look for Jobs in Your Field

You might be surprised to learn that companies are willing to hire students in their particular fields. When you apply for a job, you can make it clear that you are planning to attend college or that you are a college student and that your major is in this field. Some companies offer a flexible work schedule that allows student employees to work and study without additional pressure. Another possible benefit is that the company may be willing to cover part or all of your tuition in exchange for your services if you agree to work with them for a certain number of years.

Take College Courses Online

In the past, this might not have been appealing to most people, but the quality of online courses has improved significantly over the years. These days, online classes are just as good as traditional classes in brick and mortar schools. In fact, most online schools are now an extension of traditional colleges offering the same time of courses.  The best way to find the right courses is to search the Internet for reviews of online courses. This option is the best choice for some people since it is generally cheaper, and you will not have any travel and boarding expenses. You can also work regular hours since you can usually do online courses at your own pace and in your own time.

Get Enough Rest

One of the most important aspects of working while studying is making sure that you get enough rest. If you do not ensure that you get enough rest, you will be too tired to perform effectively at work or school. For many college students who work, they will need to cut back on some social activities.

The sacrifices will seem minor when you get your college degree. With strict attention to your schedule and some planning, you can successfully juggle a job and your college education.

Grants Available for International Students in the USA

International scholarships and grants are available for students of exceptional results, those who are serious about education and would like to improve their English. Finding US study grants, scholarships and awards is simple using the internet and the database of international student organizations. There are many ways of researching the offers, and you will find that governments and private sector companies run several projects for people like you. The below guide is designed to help international applicants find the grants they need for studying in the United States.

Government Sites to Search for International Grants

EduPass has a smart student guide that provides information about cost of living, amount of funding available and sources of financial aid. The US government also has its own scholarships you can apply for, provided that you match the initial criteria. The two main programs funded by the government are the Foreign Fulbright Student Program for postgraduate education and the Humphrey Fellowship Program, for those who already have experience in their field of expertise. The American University Scholarships award is designed for high-achieving international students in the first year of their undergraduate studies.

Financial Aid Offices

If you have already selected the college or university, you can contact their financial aid offices to see what type of grants are available for you. They can tell you about the criteria, application and selection process. Several universities and colleges in the United States also have their own international student program. There are programs designed for women, just like the AAUW scholarships fellowship project providing a generous funding of $18.000 to $30.000 based on the level of study.

Local or Regional Alumni Funds

You can search the database of the Infinite Connection online to find US and international regional Alumni Funds. The Alumni Association is designed to help students get the grants and scholarships they are looking for. You can even contact your geographic Alumni Fund community manager to get information on funds available for funds available for international students. If you register on the site, you will also get information and updates of application dates, criteria and support with writing your proposal. You can also start your search in your current country: there are offices in forty locations around the world to help students. Alternatively, you can contact the student office of your current school to find out about international and regional collaborations.

Department Offices for Your Academic Field

The Bureau of Academic Exchanges controls and coordinates state-funded programs. They select successful applicants based on their background, needs and academic achievement. You can contact the Bureau to get information on government-funded programs. Alternatively, you might want to contact one of the branches located in Asia, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. There are also several exchange programs created for international students, some funded by companies. Therefore, if you already have a degree in an academic field, you can get sponsored by a private sector organization. You can contact the Office of Designation in the U.S. Department of State to find out about private sector funds available for international students.

What Not to Do When Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships

Applying for Financial Aid and scholarships can be tricky at times, and downright confusing. There are many lists on tips on how to successfully apply for such aid but there are even fewer lists on what NOT to do. So, the following is a list on what NOT to do:

DO NOT apply late

Applying late can drastically hurt your chances at obtaining a scholarship. Many schools have their own financial aid deadlines. The official application deadline for the Free Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is June 30th but students living in certain states have different deadlines to meet. Many other countries also have similar programs with similar deadlines.

What is worse is that if you are applying for a scholarship being late in your application indicates that you may not be hardworking or deserving of the scholarship. This is exactly the opposite of what you want them to think!

DO NOT forget to check all sources for a scholarship

Scholarships can come from many unlikely sources. Thoroughly check all of these sources. Many religious schools will offer ‘matching scholarships’ where the school will agree to match all funds donated by the student’s congregation. Unlikely scholarship sources also include banks. Also, many companies offer scholarships to the children of their employees. If you are a part of a minority or a disabled person there are scholarships available that can be used to your benefit.

DO NOT forget to check application for any potential errors

Nothing says “do not give me a scholarship or grant” like handing in an application with bunches of errors and mistakes. You want the scholarship committee to see the best side of you. You want them to see the polished, professional side of you.

Also, if you make a mistake on your financial aid application packet it could mean that you may miss out on money. It helps to have a family member or friend look over your application to see if there are any obvious mistakes being made. If you are dependent upon your parents for financial aid it is important to have your parents check to see if their section of the application is correctly filled out.

DO NOT forget to have the necessary paperwork available

Having the necessary paperwork available means that you can successfully avoid some of the common mistakes that people make. Applications like the FAFSA can be tricky and remembering the detailed numbers and codes can be a challenge. Having your paperwork organized, ready, and available will greatly reduce the stress associated with submitting the application.

DO NOT forget to be creative!

Okay, so it may be impossible to be creative when filling out the FAFSA but when it comes to individual merit or achievement based scholarships you can truly let your creativity shine through! Do not be afraid to talk about the strange and unusual experiences that you have dealt with in your life. No matter what the scholarship is for, the scholarship committee loves seeing things that prove that you are bright, witty, and creative. Everyone has some sort of quirk that helps them stand out from the crowd!

DO NOT be afraid

Applying for scholarships can be very daunting at times. It is important to remember that you are not the only one going through the scholarship and financial aid process. There are millions of students who have gone through this process unscathed. Chances are, you will do just fine and you will come out of it with great life experience even if you do not get any grants or scholarships.

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