No Cost Consultation
Back to Blog
College finances

The A to Z of College Finances

finances financial aid financial matters Jun 16, 2023

A is for the bank account you’ll want to open. Choose a bank with offices near both your home and your college, so your parents can easily add money.
B is for the budget. Create a realistic one that allows for unexpected expenses.
C stands for credit rating. Be wary of building up balances that are hard to repay. Ideally, balances should be paid off completely each month so you can avoid high-interest charges. Pay on time and you can use this account to establish a good credit rating.
D is for debt. 64% of college seniors graduate with significant debt. In 2022, the average debt on graduation, based on both federal and private loans, was nearly $30,000.
E is the first letter of Expected Family Contribution. This is the amount that students and their families are expected to contribute to a year’s educational expenses.

F stands for flexible-spending accounts. Many colleges allow a portion of meal-plan money to be used for a variety of expenses such as pizza, haircuts, and groceries. Merchants near the college often accept flex-cash in lieu of cash. Parents can also add more money to these flex accounts as needed.
G is for grants. Generally based on established needs, grants reduce tuition costs and do not need to be repaid.
H reminds us of the need for health insurance. If the student is no longer covered by the family’s health insurance, you can find an economical alternative through the college’s health plan.
I am for the Internet—a great source of information about scholarships and loans. Check out and for scholarship databases and for loan information.
J stands for jobs. Even students who don’t qualify for work-study can find a variety of on or near-campus employment. Working 8 to 12 hours a week can add needed structure to the student’s days and provide extra cash.

K is for the kitchen. Housing with kitchen facilities allows students to reduce their meal costs.

L is the first letter of the loan. For subsidized and unsubsidized loans for students and for parents, check out options at or

M begins the meal plan. Sign up for only the number of meals you’re likely to use each week. Putting some of your meal money into a flexible-spending account will add variety to your meal options.
N is for need—the difference between the cost of attendance and expected family contribution.

O is for overseas programs. Most colleges offer study abroad options, generally for the same cost as studying at your home campus. Travel costs are usually additional, but the experience can be priceless!
P is for PLUS Loans—Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students. Families can borrow money through this program to meet uncovered college expenses.

Q stands for the question. Contact your financial aid office to request more help with college expenses. 

R is for reduction. Look for ways to reduce the costs of education. Using AP credits or taking some classes at a local community college may save some money.
S is for scholarships. Scholarships are gift money that reduces the cost of college. Some cover room and board in addition to tuition. Scholarships are generally merit awards given for academics, essay contests, or special skills such as athletics or performing arts.

T stands for the telephone. Phone expenses can consume a good part of your college budget. Search out plans that are most economical for your expected usage.
U is for unpaid positions. While these won’t fund your college expenses, they can add immeasurably to your resume.

V is for volunteers. Check out volunteer opportunities at your college’s career or volunteer center.
W is for work-study. You can qualify for work-study jobs through your FAFSA application. Work-study funds can be used to pay the student’s part of the expected family contribution. Best of all, this money won’t be counted in assessing the following year’s needs.

X stands for extras. This includes all of the unexpected expenses that add up over time to increase your cost of attendance.

Y is for you. While college is expensive, remember that college graduates currently earn over a million dollars more over a lifetime of work than those with only a high school diploma.
Z is for Zoom. Completing college in four (or fewer) years significantly reduces the cost of attendance. Surprisingly, only 41% of U.S. college students graduate within four years.


Photo by Pixabay:

Don't miss a beat!

Get my Newsletter sent to your email box with the latest strategies, tools, and college planning insight.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.