10 ways incoming freshmen can financially prepare for college during summer

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How to Fund a College Education


Use Summer to Search for, Secure More College Funding

​Even after the madness of applying to college, earning an acceptance letter and selecting a school, incoming freshmen still have some college preparation ​to do. Summer is the time to start gearing up financially​ for school, including assessing affordability, saving and reading through financial documents.

1. Take Advantage of Summer Melt

Each year, admitted students who committed to the school back out at the last minute, called summer melt. Some financial aid set aside for those no-shows becomes available to incoming students. Starting around midsummer, a student can make contact with the financial aid office to see if any funds were freed up.

"It's all about timing and being nice," says Katharine Ruby, director of college finance at College Coach, which advises students on the college admissions and finance process.

2. Get to Work

As students prepare for the massive financial undertaking of their first year of college, a summer job can help them save enough money to make a dent in that first tuition bill, buy books or have some disposable income. Some summer jobs even offer scholarship opportunities or valuable career experience.

3. Learn How to Budget

The first summer job is a great time to learn to budget, says Ruby, of College Coach. "Having a job and learning how to budget what you're earning is a great thing to do in the summer before college," she says.

Students can practice managing their resources, saving and exploring which money-tracking software works best for them.

4. Consider Summer Classes

Taking summer classes at a local community college can be an opportunity to tackle credits at a lower cost. But be aware of how it affects financial aid in the next year, says Ruby. Using up too much aid before classes start may eat into first semester aid eligibility.

5. Apply for Late Deadline Scholarships

Scholarship funds may remain available for procrastinators who know where to look – some have June, July or August deadlines for qualified applicants.

6. Make a Financial Aid Appeal

"If things have changed since you originally applied, make sure you file an appeal," says Ruby.

Families can approach the financial aid office to explain their current situation and determine whether extra funding is available.

7. Consider Borrowing Less

A financial aid award letter may offer a certain amount in loans, but frugal students don't need to take out the entire amount.

Consider whether summer earnings, an on-campus job or energetic budgeting can reduce the amount borrowed.

8. Find Cheap Housing

Room and board charges added an average $9,999 to students' university bills in 2014-2015, according to data reported by 1,109 ranked colleges in an annual survey by U.S. News. And they're climbing.

Whether it's arranging to live with family or sharing an off-campus apartment with a friend, scoring affordable housing can go a long way to reducing college costs.

9. Keep Connected

The financial aid department may begin communicating with the student via their freshly minted university email address this summer, says Ruby. So, it's important to keep an eye on any messages on that account.

For example, colleges may send along a notice that a student has been auto-enrolled in a university health plan, and it'll be up to the family to opt out before the deadline passes, says Ruby.

10. Look for a Finalized Award Letter

After making adjustments for updated tax information, new scholarship funds or changes in financial circumstances, schools may send a revised financial aid award letter in June or July, says Ruby. Look out for any surprises – the letter may come through the student's university email account.

Continue Learning About Paying for College

The summer before freshman year of college is one of the first steps in tackling college costs – and eventually paying down student loans.

Follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation and stay informed about the latest tips and advice on paying for college.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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