College Econ 101 | Teen Ink

College Econ 101

January 6, 2014
By Zoe Davis GOLD, Chicago, Illinois
Zoe Davis GOLD, Chicago, Illinois
11 articles 13 photos 4 comments

Welcome to College Econ 101. Class is now in session. While this is extremely important for seniors and juniors to sit up and take notes, underclassmen should wake up too.

While some people might advise us to go where our heart is, or to apply to that expensive private school of our dreams, the truth is that money can be a huge factor in college applications and decisions. This isn’t unique to most people. Many students across the nation are being forced to pick a college based on cost and “practical” majors. Because of this, economics plays a huge role on how students make decisions for college.

There are many debates about what is cost-effective when applying for and making decisions about college. There are also many choices involved in the college application process. For example, how do you know which schools to apply to? Should you choose a school that offers you a lot of scholarship money, or the school of your dreams? Is living at home a money-saving alternative for those considering a school such as UIC? Are private colleges even worth it?

These questions are all important to consider when deciding where to apply.

A big issue can be the decision of whether to choose an expensive dream school over a more economical state school that offers more money. This is a personal decision for me, because the school of my dreams is currently ranked ninth on Forbes’ America’s Most Expensive Colleges report. The estimated tuition for Northwestern University is $56,406. I’ll pause as that sinks in.

In a case like this, it is important to know that the price tag of a college isn’t as relative as the net price, or the price of the college minus grants and scholarships. Not too many people have the cash to pay for a school like Northwestern or University of Chicago (number two on the Forbes’ list) out of their pockets. Due to this, most students would turn to government loans, scholarships and grants.

The problem with government loans is that the interest rates keep climbing, which forces many students to turn to scholarships or grants. Despite that, federal loans are cheaper than other alternatives and provide more flexible options for repayment. Also, even if you think that your family would not qualify for financial aid, apply anyway. You definitely won’t receive any money if you don’t apply. Filling out the FAFSA form can provide you with gift aid, which is money that you don’t pay back, as well as loans.

Another option for paying for college is applying for private scholarships. While many scholarships require writing an essay, submitting a transcript, or acquiring a recommendation, many do not. There are many scholarships that can be won simply by sending a text or a tweet. The organization Do Something offers scholarships simply for sending a text to six friends about social issues such as bullying, secondhand smoke, homelessness and childhood hunger. Scholarships can award up to $4,000.

Aid, whether loans or gift aid, can also help offset the cost of room and board, books, and other fees. Another option for those staying in-state and close to home can be living at home instead of in a dorm. This can be an economic option for those who want to save a lot of money and don’t ,mind bunking with their parents for at least four more years. As for me, I want to experience college for all it has to offer, especially living far away from my family--even if that means living in Evanston.

Sometimes a college decision must be made on the cost-effectiveness of that decision, which can mean forgoing the dream school for a cheaper alternative. The lesson of today is simple--there are easy ways to get to college without selling limbs. And there are ways to achieve the education you have dreamed of.

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