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Paying For College - Head Matters


2. Smart Consumer

Choosing a college is an important decision.  You want to find the best deal possible but also a career and college that fit your unique needs, talents, and ambitions.

When you’re deciding which college to attend, one important consideration is the total cost of attending the school.  Schools call this the “Cost of Attendance.” You will want to think about tuition, the cost of books and supplies as well as housing, transportation, and living expenses. Education is an investment in yourself and you want to be sure that you’re investing wisely – and considering all of your expenses.

Tips to stretch your college dollars: 

  1. Go to your local community college for your first two years.
  2. Consider an in-state publicly supported school because tuition is usually less than at private or out-of-state schools.
  3. Get a part time job so that you don’t have to borrow as much in student loans and you may be able to pay as you go.
  4. Live at home or with roommates to cut housing costs.
  5. Use public transportation instead of having a car – many schools include free or discounted public transportation with admission.

Don’t be hasty in ruling out schools just because of their price tag. Price comparisons are best made when you receive your financial aid award notification – that’s where schools tell you how much financial aid they’re able to give you. A more expensive school may be able to give you more financial aid or money that goes to your educational costs.  With that help, your out-of-pocket cost may be about the same as a less expensive school. We’ll talk more about how a school tells you what financial aid you are receiving, called “award notifications” or "award letters," later.

To get a ballpark idea of what your actual cost might be at your favorite schools, check out their Net Price Calculators. These are great tools that will give you a pretty good idea of how much aid a school will be able to offer, based on your financial situation. You can find colleges’ net price calculators on their websites, or check out this list from College In Colorado or search for the schools on the Department of Education’s College Navigator website.

Most importantly, remember that your investment in higher education will pay off the most when you complete a degree. Students, who leave their higher education program without completing it, are still responsible for any debt they incurred while in school. If you begin college or vocational school, be sure to finish your degree.  Otherwise, you’ll owe on any debts you incurred without getting the benefit of the degree or certificate. Completing your program is the best way to pay off your investment!

There are many tools to help explore college and career options – and find a career path and a college that’s right for you. One of the best is College In Colorado, a website with many tools to help you plan for college and beyond.  Go to for more career and educational guidance. 
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