This topic is relevant to my interests. My oldest graduates high school in 2013.
Don't discount financial aid ... or how perfectly Byzantine the financial aid process is. On the face of things, getting your basics out of the way at your local community college seems like a good idea: close to home, lower tuition, etc, etc. But what is that going to do to your financial aid award? You may find that you get LESS aid both now and as a transfer student than if you simply suck it up. Of course, the increased cost of a four-year school may mean you're still behind. Mariel's advice for being ready is sound. There's little point in taking on $17k/year if you're not going to haul your behind out of bed for class. Unfortunately, failing to enter college right out of high school can have an impact on your aid awards.
Assume nothing. Run the numbers.
Apply to EVERY scholarship and grant program you can find that you come close to qualifying for. Fill out the FAFSA early, and fill it out every year. If your parents typically lag in getting their taxes done, get on their behinds this year. You NEED their tax info for your freshman year's aid application. After that, if you're living in an apartment off-campus, you may find it more beneficial to be "on your own" and not include your parents' information.
Live off-campus if you can. EVERY four-year school I visited last month clocked in at eight thousand a year
in "room and board". Sure, you may pay that or more living in an apartment with 3 friends ... but the difference is you're paying your expenses monthly instead of rolling that cost into your aid package. It doesn't make financial sense to take out a $32,000 loan just to live in a room with 3 other guys and not have to worry about grocery shopping (unless, of course, it makes sense). Also, don't be picky about your off-campus living arrangement. Low cost is the goal. When I was attending Wayne State University in the early 90s, I paid $260/month to live in a tiny one-bedroom third-floor walk-up with no air conditioning in downtown Detroit. I could afford it (and food, and entertainment) on my campus job making $160/week, and was able to walk everywhere. The fact that I got to live by myself was just icing on the cake. Keep in mind that some schools *cough*MSU*cough* will require freshmen to live on-campus for the first year.
Pay very close attention to your degree program as it relates to the real world. There are may out there that simply don't pay for themselves. Fortunately, engineering typically isn't one of those, but again: Assume nothing. Run the numbers.
I remember back when I was at CMU ...
Originally Posted by TheEpicNecropath
You still in Michigan?