One of the most common questions that we get from incoming students and parents is “how much is this going to cost?” and the next question is often “how are we going to pay for this?” While the cost of paying for college can be overwhelming, there are a few things that you can do to help lessen the stress of coming up with the overall cost.
As college costs continue to rise, we are consistently looking for ways to help students and parents understand their bursar accounts and ways to lessen their out-of-pocket costs for college. The number one tip in our toolkit is to create a plan. By creating a plan, students become aware of their expenses and what resources are available to them to help pay toward those expenses. This will then them to see a more accurate “cost” that they know they will need to cover each semester. Let’s walk through the steps to complete a plan.
Understanding and Estimating Your Expenses
If you are an incoming freshman or a current student transferring to UCO, you may be wondering what the costs look like at UCO. Our costs are broken down into 2 main categories: Tuition and Fees. There are other costs that you may have such as books, housing, meal plans, or parking permits, but all students that enroll at UCO will have tuition charges and fee charges. Both tuition and fee charges are based on the number of credit hours that you enroll into each semester, but it’s important to note that there are university fees that students must pay and there are fees for the courses that you take based on the college that the course under. If your head is already spinning, I’m happy to introduce you to our tuition calculator. The UCO Tuition Calculator allows student to estimate their tuition and fee costs based on the number of credit hours they plan on taking, if those courses will be taken online or in person, and if the student is considered an In-State student or an Out-of-State student. All these factors that are plugged in will be totaled at the bottom of the page and broken down. The UCO Tuition Calculator can be found here: https://www3.uco.edu/TuitionCalculator/
Money Coach Tip
When completing the FAFSA, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It will input your taxes into the FAFSA for you and save you some paperwork if you are selected for verification.
After looking at the tuition, fee, and housing expenses of college, students and parents often feel at least a little overwhelmed. It’s common to panic when you see such a large number for one semester or even one year, knowing that this will be a reoccurring cost for about four years. It’s at this time that we recommend that students take a couple deep breaths and begin to look for financial resources that will help cover some of these costs.
The first financial resource that students need to review and complete is the FAFSA. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an application that is submitted to the college of your choice to determine your financial need. Once a student’s financial need is determined, the college is able to offer the student a financial aid package, which will provide the student with grants, loans, and a work-study award if they are eligible.
Next, students need to look into scholarships and tuition waivers that may be available through the university or from outside organizations. While tuition waivers can help to pay down the cost of tuition charges, scholarships act as cash and can often pay any charges on the student’s bursar account. Remember to pay attention to deadlines. You don’t want to lose out on an opportunity because of a missed deadline!
Refer to our Scholarship Tips and Tricks post to find a few of the sites we recommend for scholarship searching!
Money Coach Tip
When researching scholarships, use your phone’s calendar to block time a week out from the scholarship deadline to work on anything you need to do to complete your scholarship application. Also, make sure you input scholarship deadlines into your phone so you are reminded to submit them if you haven’t yet!
Creating Your Plan
There are many resources available to help you budget and create a spending plan. Since college can be confusing with all the different possible charges, we have created a UCO Cost Worksheet to help you determine your costs! You can find our cost worksheet here: UCO Cost Worksheet.
To use the worksheet, you will first complete the top portion with the expenses you plan to experience. Next, you will list the financial resources that you will have to help you pay your cost of college. After you total both sections, you subtract your resources from your expenses which will give you a remaining cost that you will need to plan paying.
Money Coach Tip
When using the UCO Cost Worksheet, plan your costs for a year. Financial Aid is awarded annually and disbursed half in the fall and half in the spring semesters. Once you have your annual remaining cost, divide this appropriately for your plan such as in two for each semester or twelve for each month.
After a couple of cycles of planning and reviewing, creating a plan will become second nature! If you have any questions or need help filling out the worksheet and creating your plan to pay for college, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us on our UCO Webpage: https://www.uco.edu/admissions-aid/financial-aid/money-coaches