How much will college really cost your family?

(StatePoint) Be sure to look beyond tuition costs when making financial plans for college. Keep your eyes open for the many expenses not listed in school brochures. Determine in advance how you’ll pay for them and even how you may save money. Above all, be realistic.

Here are some things to keep in mind when assessing college costs and financing options:

No matter what your family’s financial status is, you should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, which is the first step toward obtaining financial aid. Also explore additional financing options, like scholarships, tuition payment plans your school offers, federal loans and private alternative loans.

Make graduating debt-free your objective and only take out private student loans only after exhausting other resources and efforts. After receiving award letters, scholarships and grants, calculate whether there is still a financial gap between your resources and the cost of college.

If you do opt for a private loan, ensure you’re familiar with the loan’s terms, as well as the realities of graduating with debt. A responsible lender that defers payments until after you leave school can help you get educated on how loan repayment works and how this decision will affect you in the future. A loan consultant at your bank can help you explore the best options for you.

Plan Ahead
Get as accurate an estimate of total college costs as possible. Most school websites offer a net price calculator that can give you an estimate of your total college cost and your financial aid award.

Also, free online tools, such as Wells Fargo’s Get College Ready College Cost Calculator, will help you take all your personal factors into consideration.

Don’t forget to budget for other certain and potential expenses like a mobile phone plan, medical insurance, lab fees and class materials.

Save Money
After tallying up college costs, look for practical ways to reduce expenditures. For instance, you can save on big ticket items by attending your state school at the in-state tuition rate or by living at home.

Save on day-to-day living costs by biking instead of driving and buying used textbooks. Get a smaller meal plan and prepare some meals in your apartment.

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