How to Calculate the Cost of College

It's not uncommon for a teen to have an offer to attend a college the family can afford, only to have the teen pining over their "dream school." Having this conversation long before the college list is made can prevent a lot of heartache, tears, and parents from hocking their investments so that little Suzie can get what she wants. (Yes, there's definitely sarcasm here.)

I don't subscribe to the dream school concept. I believe it's a made-up marketing gimmick by pricey colleges. There is no evidence that having a degree from an expensive college equates to more success or more income. Unfortunately, "dream school" and "top school" have come to mean the same thing. Money. It's gonna cost you. The question is "how much?" So how do you figure that out, and how do you know if it's worth it?

It's all in the numbers so grab a spreadsheet and let's start doing a little math.

In my example, Alice had an offer to attend a very reputable college with a scholarship, and her mom could...

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Students Talk About How They Went to College Debt Free

There are many paths to a debt-free college education even without using parents' money. Here are a few keys talked about in this video.:

1-Talk with your kids early, in or before freshman year, about the financial expectation of college. 

2-Have a strategy

3-Living at home saves tens of thousands of dollars

4-Working and saving for college from an early age. Working during college.  

5-Winning scholarships begets more scholarships. Both college admissions and scholarship committees like 'winners'. Having won even one scholarship is 'proof of concept' not only to you, that you can do it and it's worth your time but committees tend to look with more enthusiasm when you already have a win on your resume.

(Image credit: pexels-buro-millennial-1438072)

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