Paying For College: What To Know Before You Go Don't let college anxiety rush you into a financial mistake that could haunt you for years. This Life Kit episode lays out the do's and don'ts of paying for college so that you don't have to mortgage your future before you get there.
NPR logo

Paying For College: What To Know Before You Go

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/729907683/732579216" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Paying For College: What To Know Before You Go

Paying For College: What To Know Before You Go

Paying For College: What To Know Before You Go

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/729907683/732579216" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Bjorn Rune Lie/Getty Images/Ikon Images
Don't mortgage your future before you get to college.
Bjorn Rune Lie/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Don't let college anxiety rush you into a financial mistake that could haunt you for years. This Life Kit episode lays out the do's and don'ts of paying for college so that you don't have to mortgage your future before you get there.

Here's what to remember:

  • Consider the money-saving power of living at home and attending community college for two years before transferring to a more expensive, four-year college. But be proactive, making sure that every credit counts. Many community college students say they have transfer plans, but few do it successfully.
  • Don't let a school's high price deter you — you may only have to pay a fraction of the advertised cost. Then again, beware of indirect costs, like books and transportation, that rarely show up in the sticker price.
  • The FAFSA form is the gatekeeper to most student financial aid, so don't put it off — and don't give up. Stay vigilant even after you've finished it, too, in case you are flagged for what's called "verification." Not finishing the FAFSA can tank your chances at receiving vital student aid.
  • Find free money, from federal Pell Grants to school-based tuition discounts to private scholarships for left-handed tuba players.
  • Student loans are your friends ... until they're not. If you or your parents have to borrow beyond federal student lending limits, the degree might not be worth the debt. And no matter how much you borrow, shop around for the friendliest interest rate and the most flexible repayment options.
  • You don't have to attend an elite school to be happy. Surveys of graduates later in life show well-being depends far more on how much student debt you have and whether you found a great mentor in college.