How Much Money Do You Need for College?
Your cost of attendance is the amount of money you need to pay for your education, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, personal expenses, utilities, and transportation. By understanding what your cost of attendance is, you can have a better idea of how much scholarship money you need to get through your degree. No two people have the same cost of attendance, even if they go to the same school and have the same major. Use the guide below to learn how to calculate your cost of attendance.
Get an Estimate from Your School
Your school’s financial aid department should have an approximate cost of attendance for you to use as a template. In most cases, this will be available as a calculator on the school’s website. You can enter the classes you are taking and the details of your living situation to get an estimate for your cost of attendance. This will be the price that your school uses to cap your financial aid for the year.
Note that changes in your class schedule, where you live (on campus vs. off campus) and the school you attend in general will dramatically change your approximate cost of attendance.
If your school does not provide a cost of attendance calculator for you, you may be able to find a general estimate through the CNN Money College Cost database. This will not include specific information for your degree, but it may provide a baseline for you.
Do Your Own Research
Once you have your class schedule for the semester, find out how much money you will have to pay for books, lab fees, and supplies you need for the class. Your school may estimate a certain amount of money for supplies and books that does not match what you will actually spend. If you can find used textbooks or rental textbooks, for instance, you won’t have to pay full retail for your books.
Determine Your Cost of Living
Your cost of living is completely base on your lifestyle, your housing, and your personal needs. Spend some time looking over your current bills and see if there are any changes coming for the school year. Do you plan to move? If so, what will the new rent and utility payments be? Are you changing your diet? Are you going to need more money for transportation? Make a detailed list of your monthly expenses and add that to the cost of your schooling.
Apply for Financial Aid
With all of this information I place, you can start applying for financial aid. Don’t just apply for the amount you need because there is no guarantee that you will earn all of the scholarships you try for. If you get more money than the school will allow you to have, at least you will be able to pay for your expenses with confidence. You may even get a refund check next semester. Recalculate your cost of attendance every time something changes with your life, and you will always be prepared for your responsibilities.