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College

   
My best advice is, make sure you're ready for college before you go. If you're not sure, don't be afraid to take a year off to work, save money, apply for scholarships, and explore your options. Some people are ready right out of high school while others need a little time to mature more before they can get the most out of the college experience. If you do take a year off though, do something with it, don't just laze around your parent's house playing video games.

I went to a great 4-year college and loved all of it, all of my classes and my professors (some of whom I am friends with an keep in contact with regularly), the amazing intellectual stimulation, etc. However...it was VERY expensive. And my line of work is not particularly lucrative. So I will be paying off loans for a long, long time.

In retrospect, I wish I would have looked into junior college or at least worked a lot harder looking for alternate/different methods of financial aid. I was an impatient kid and was like "I want teh learningz NAO!!!" and took the convenient way of just applying for federal and private (way too many private) loans.

And like Mariel said, don't be afraid to take a year off to work and save up some $$ to help yourself pay at least part of your own way. I didn't do that because 1) I was impatient, 2) I was naive, 3) I was paranoid about being perceived as "slow" or "different" by my peers for being older and in college. When in reality tons of older individuals go to college now.

I would never trade my experiences and education, but I am and will continue to be kicking myself for my financial naivete.

Make sure you research the hell out of what you're taking. Long ago, I was planning to take a Bachelor of Zoology, and in doing so took 5 biology courses in high school. But not once did I actually look at the course requirements - biology wasn't one. Chemistry was. Guess what I didn't take.

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheEpicNecropath View Post
I remember back when I was at CMU ...
You still in Michigan?

I've seen a LOT of schools doing the whole "You must live on campus for a year" bit. And I thought I'd run the numbers too, so, I checked out SUNY Albany, my own school. Their cost breakdown actually has me raising my eyebrows. Apparently, they view their rooms as more valuable than their education. $3500 a semester for room, $2100 for board, and $2800 for tuition (state residents). And that's for one semester, and doesn't include all the fees.

Time to start encouraging your kids to enlist, that GI Bill is looking better and better! (And for other veterans on here, make sure you look at your state benefits. For example, I've yet to meet a NY Vet who has known about the Veterans Tuition Award.)

While it is not for everyone, joining the military before college was the best decision I made. College was cake after a couple of tours in the military. Plus, you're independent (free money), have the GIBill (even more free money), local scholarships (still more free money? woohoo) and can live where you want. Downside is... you're in the military for X years. Means you might get stuck going to a war you may or may not particularly like.

If the military isn't ideal, junior college or community college is great.

Look at the dropout and failure rates for first year students at any college. If it's high, find out why. Is it because the classes are hard, or because everyone is drunk and stoned?

When looking at tuition costs, please remember that the listed number is only what the STUDENT pays. If you're at a state institution (like SUNY), state funding covers a good deal of what it actually costs to serve the student. (At private institutions, endowments often do the same.) The state won't kick in for room and board, in many cases, so the bulk of that cost falls on the student/family.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrMorganes View Post
You still in Michigan?
CMU is Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and no I'm not there anymore. It's New York and the Architect's office for me.

Here's something you can start now that will vastly improve your high school experience and put you ahead of the game your first year of college. Love to learn. It doesn't matter what just love learning. If you can do that then your remaining time in high school school will be worth so much more... To many people look at high school as just "oh, its the waiting pool to see if I can go to college... I'll learn when I get to college." That can easily grow into "Man, this college thing, its just a side note till i get a job and do something that really matters..." and so on.

College is just an extension of your education, it's a tool; it isn't the end all. If you learn to use that tool now then you can truly grow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheEpicNecropath View Post
CMU is Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and no I'm not there anymore. It's New York and the Architect's office for me.
Ah. To those of us in the Mitten, CMU = Central Michigan University. Too many universities, not enough acronyms!




 

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