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  Saving Up for College
By Jay Liebowitz
iHigh Student Correspondent

When people speak of luxury items, they usually refer to jewelry, clothes, or a BMW. But the truth is that nothing is as luxuriously expensive as an education from a prestigious college. Some of us are lucky enough to have parents who can afford to pay our whole way. Others receive scholarships for athletic or academic achievement. But a whole lot of us will find ourselves getting that acceptance letter in the mail (if we're lucky!) and then trying to figure out a way to pay for the privilege of higher education.

If you're like most high school students, you better start seriously thinking about how much money you'll really need for college, where the money is coming from, and what you are going to do about it starting today. You need to develop a plan and take action right now. Don't wait "a little longer." You may receive that coveted admissions letter to Harvard - and not even be able to pay the deposit.

Here a few steps you can take right now:

1) Realistically assess the price of college
College is ridiculously expensive, just like the rest of life. The real cost of college goes beyond the cost of tuition. It includes room and board, books, computers, lab fees, microwave popcorn and a slew of unknowns.

In fact, room and board costs are probably the next most expensive item in your college budget, after tuition. Although everyone prefers to live alone in terrific townhouse right off campus, not everyone can afford it. Compare the costs of dorms, off-campus housing, and apartment sharing. Don't forget the cost of utilities and food. You can get rent averages, information on standard utilities costs, etc. on the Internet. If it's geographically possible, living at home is almost always the least expensive choice (though not necessarily the most fun!).

Add the cost of textbooks, gas and car maintenance, car insurance payments, the telephone bill (which will most likely be high your first year away from home), and include your expected "entertainment" costs. You can get a good average on this by writing out your current budget and modifying it to include the items that your parents are paying for now. You'll probably be surprised how expensive (and non-essential) things like cable TV, junk food and new CDs really are once you start adding them all together.

2) Determine your other sources of funding.
Financial aid is always a tricky situation and the options can seem overwhelming. Ask your potential college about financial aid; ask your high school guidance counselor about applying for grants, loans and scholarships; and, once again, spend some time on the Internet looking for some of your more obscure options to rounding up extra cash.

Another option is part-time work, both now and once you are enrolled in your college courses. If you have a job now, there are ways to squeeze savings out of that tiny-looking paycheck. If you are waiting until you enroll to accept employment, plan your workload and class schedule accordingly. Take classes only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or all week through but only in the morning. Don't forget to add at least 10 hours a week for homework and additional time for classes with labs.

3) Make a plan
Here's an example:

Let's say you take home $100 a week at a part time job and you're currently a high school freshman. If you've followed my advice and have been diligent about including every cost - books, room, meals, etc. - into your expenses, you'll find that the real cost of college is probably about $3,000 more than your tuition bill.

At $100 a week, you earn about $5,200 a year after taxes. But then you have to subtract the money you are spending now on "essentials" such as clothes, movie tickets, prom, senior pictures, etc. We'll say you end up saving $2,000 a year from your paycheck. That means by the time you graduate, you'll have $8,000 in the bank! Which can prove mighty handy in case you don't have time to work and study.

Of course, if you're a sophomore, junior, or senior you'll save less. But you can still start saving now in order to avoid dire poverty later.

Article provided by iHigh.com

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