What we learned from college student #1, We hope will benefit college student #2
With the end of our daughter's junior year of college approaching quickly, my wife and I have asked ourselves what did we learn (at least monetarily speaking) from her first three years at college that can help our soon-to-be college freshman son.
First, as far as finances go nothing is a given. For instance we have estimated the cost of books and supplies inaccurately in each of our daughter's six semesters of classes because we were TOO conservative i.e. a book estimated to be $55 we figured would be $60, but in reality came to $85. And so the reality of book buying went.
Second, well before the freshman year is completed, roommates need to be located for the ensuing year that can truly be responsible especially for housing rental (down payment). My daughter was very fortunate to have had responsible and reliable people who have shared the two separate apartments she has lived in thus far. However, she was on top of things, and had the foresight to budget in for the next years lease before the school year began in the fall. In other words we learned that planning early for events like these is crucial to our kid's financial and emotional outlook amidst all the turmoil and anxiety they already have with tests etc.
Third, always, always, always fill out any new scholarships that might be found and revisit the FAFSA forms each year to update financial information. My daughter garnered a $500 scholarship this year and the FAFSA turned in our favor a bit this tax season which we wouldn't have known unless we revisited the form online.
The fourth essential MUST for our son is to encourage him to work as much as possible in the summer and to save, save, save as much as possible also. In order for us to contribute our fair share he must also contribute. At least enough for a down payment on an apartment, two semesters of books, and access to the sporting events he might want to attend at his chosen school.
Finally, in each of the last three years we have learned a lot about this college game. Now we are hoping that we have educated ourselves enough to help with the transition from high school to college that our son will be going through and to make it as painless as possible on all of our wallets.