College Planning, Preparing for College

What Are You Really Paying For?

Over the past decade, there have been shifts in the way that students study. More important is the length of time they spend on their studies. According to an American Interest article College Students Are Studying Less Than You Think, students today are studying 40% less than they did 50 years ago. Even more surprising, they study less than they did as high school students! This begs the question, “If students aren’t learning as much, what am I as a parent paying for?”

The majority of college students want to go to college for job stability, career satisfaction, and success/status outside the workplace. And if you are under the impression that it really matters where your student goes to college, do some research. In all but a few cases where the student hopes to get accepted into a law, med, vet, dental, or other graduate school; or wants to work on Wall Street – public vs private really doesn’t matter.

In other words, it’s not so important where your student goes to college but what they do while there. A motivated, hard-working student is going to succeed anywhere. 


Practical Matters

Many colleges require up-to-date immunizations in addition to documentation of an annual physical examination. Some colleges won’t give students their dorm room key on move-in day until these important items are taken care of! Check the college website for their policy.

Prescription Medication

Does your student take prescription medication? If so, you’ll want to either stock up before they head off to school or locate in-network pharmacies near them.

Maybe you can take advantage of one of the convenient online order services. This is important to consider since many colleges don’t allow freshmen to have cars on-campus unless they’re commuting from home.

The Student Health Center

Most colleges have health centers, but what they offer can vary. Some are able to diagnose and treat many illnesses, while others are more basic, and will refer your student elsewhere depending on the severity of the condition. Of course, if your student is experiencing shortness of breath, severe bleeding, or head trauma, they should head to the nearest emergency room.

Both you and your student need to familiarize yourselves with the health services the college offers as soon as you set foot on-campus. Note that a student can utilize the on-campus health center even if they opt out of the college’s health insurance plan.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resources

Let’s face it: college is tough. It’s also when signs of depression or mental illness can begin to surface. And, if we’re being honest, it’s when students may start drinking or experimenting with drugs.

No one likes to think about these possibilities, but ignoring mental health can be disastrous.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, anxiety is the top concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression ( 36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent). Just as with the student health center, your student should become familiar with the mental health resources that are offered on-campus.

Stress is a normal part of college and life. Students should work towards mitigating the effects of stress by taking advantage of their school’s free fitness center and focusing on healthy eating habits. Drinking plenty of water and (trying) to get a full night’s sleep never hurt either.


Tips On Indirect Costs

You may recall seeing indirect costs listed on your student’s financial aid package. Because these expenses are not directly billed, you often have more control over how much you spend on them.

  • Books – every college student will have to buy books at some point. While the campus bookstore may be convenient, it’s usually the most expensive option. It’s almost always better to find them used or even look online for websites that rent textbooks. Digital versions are another popular and cheaper option.
  • Dorm Needs – for students living on-campus, you will need to acquire furniture and supplies to outfit their dorm. Most dorms come with only the bare minimum – a bed, dresser, and a desk. Students typically need to provide their own bedding, TV, appliances, and any sort of decoration. If they have roommates, your student should try to coordinate with them before move-in day to avoid ending up with multiples of the same item.
  • Laptop – a laptop can often be one of the priciest non-billed expenses. Check for college student discounts, as some companies such as Apple and Microsoft offer them.
  • Travel – this cost can vary significantly depending on how far away college is AND how often your student travels home. If the school is within driving distance, traveling by bus is a financially smart option. If your student must fly to get home, try to plan your visits in advance. Plane tickets are usually much cheaper when bought months ahead.
  • Parking Fees – if your student is bringing a car to campus, expect to pay as on-campus parking can cost hundreds of dollars each semester! Car insurance can also increase, depending on where the school is located. Consider leaving the car at home while living at school. They’ll still have access to it on breaks and over the summer.
  • Food and Beverages – although most colleges require students to have a meal plan if they live on-campus, students will still typically spend money on food outside of the dining halls. Late-night pizza, a coffee from Starbucks in the morning, or lunch at a restaurant with friends can all quickly add up. Students can save money here by viewing dining off-campus as a special experience, rather than an everyday activity. They can save the Starbucks lattes for the weekends, and stick to coffee from the dining hall on weekdays.
  • Off-campus Activities – Last but not least are off-campus social activities, like weekend ski trips. If your student has friends whose parents are financially comfortable while you’re stretching it to pay the direct costs, now is the time to have a discussion about what kind of off-campus treats you can subsidize.


Some people wouldn’t dream of going grocery shopping without their coupons. Most people don’t buy a car without shopping around first. Lots of us use online booking sites to find the lowest fare on a flight or a hotel room. Don’t wait too long to figure out your best way to pay for college.

If you’ve thought about contacting us but haven’t, this is a really good time of year, because summer is relatively quiet.

Depending on the grade your student is in, there may be a lot we can do to help you save on the cost of college.

The longer you delay will mean the less you can do to save a year or two in college costs. We have the capability, expertise, and professional relationships in place that can help you ensure that your student attends the RIGHT college, for the RIGHT reasons, and for the RIGHT price!

Give us a call at 732-502-9700 or email us at Don’t wait and lose tens of thousands of dollars of income, savings and possibly go into debt because you procrastinated.