My Experience: Financial Budgeting in College


College can be expensive; tuition, books, room and board, food, school supplies (first time around), supplies that may be required for class and miscellaneous expenses.

Tuition definitely depends on which University you attend. Some of America’s most expensive college tuitions come from attending schools such as: Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY with the price tag of $65,480, private college Harvey Mudd in Claremont, CA has a price tag of 64,427, studying at the University of Chicago could cost you $62,458, and if you plan on going to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, $61,927 would be your tuition cost. Did I mention that this is per year?

I attended California State University Los Angeles with a tuition estimate of 23,810; I lived on campus so that cost is included as well. Off-campus is estimated to cost $24,476 and commuter, which means you live with parents and you commute to school, has a price tag of $15,851. Included in these estimates are tuition and mandatory fees, books and supplies, room and board and miscellaneous and personal expenses. I can tell you first hand that I didn’t follow a budget nor follow the breakdown of how much each thing should cost, that’s given on the universities website. All  costs are only estimates, it’s not until you actually start your first semester or quarter, that you find out that costs are either lower or higher than the estimates that you may find on the school’s website or on the internet in general.

Financial aid can help a great deal with tuition fees or not at all if you don’t qualify. I wouldn’t say that I was “lucky” that my mom was a single parent; however, it did help a great deal when it came to qualifying for financial aid. I graduated college June 2013 and my student loans total $17,000 for the two years that I attended, with the first year living on campus and the second year commuting. My first quarter after financial was disbursed and all mandatory fees were taken out; I was given a check for around $1900. That $1900 was for books, supplies, food, miscellaneous and personal expenses. I received this per quarter, give or take a few dollars. The amount that financial aid disbursed per quarter fluctuated depending on the quarter (Spring, Fall, Winter). As I mentioned before, financial aid can help a lot or a little or not at all. For me, financial aid helped a lot so I didn’t have to come out of pocket for much at all. My first quarter at Cal State LA was rough though. It was the first time that I was away from home, even though school was only 45 minutes away. I knew that I was going to have roommates; however, I didn’t get to meet them before move-in day. Living in a dorm (apartment style) was a lot to get used to. It’s a bit like proving your independence before really moving out and being on your own.

Before attending Cal State LA, I attended a community college which was a good thing and a not so good thing in my opinion. It’s a good thing because it’s cheaper! Kidding, that’s not the only good thing; don’t let a school community college or university deter you from considering attending, due to the cost, especially if the school has the Bachelor’s program or certificate program that you need. Anyways, community college can be a good thing because the freshmen dropout rate from a university is pretty high. Being overwhelmed is an understatement. Some students are unable to balance the class load and the work that comes with it, meeting new people, attending parties and everything else that comes along with the first year of attending a university. I had many friends that attended a university right after high school and I was a bit jealous. Community college life and university life are like day and night. At community, you attend class and go home, there really isn’t too much extracurricular activities going on, however, at a university there’s most likely something going on every day.

Attending a community college gives you time to figure out what you want to get your degree in because the first two years are general ED classes. The not-so good thing about community college, mentioned above, is that there isn’t much going on. If you’re concerned about basketball games, football games, slues of parties, community college is not the place! With that being said, it doesn’t matter if you attend a community college or a university, the experience will be what you make it. At any college, the best thing to do is to get involved. Join clubs, go to meetings about different things happening on campus, meet people! It may work out with some people and with some it won’t. I met some really cool people in college that I am still friends with to this day.

Being responsible is key to succeeding in college. Know when you need to do your homework so that you are able to turn it in on time, know when you need to study for an exam, know when you need help and get it, whether from the professor, a tutor or a fellow student. Know when you need to leave a party so you can wake up and still attend class on time and be focused. You have to want to go to college and be successful in college as much as your parents want you to go to college.  A counselor from the American Broadcasting School told me that attending and graduating college shows that you aren’t afraid of commitment, you are disciplined and that you want to have a career and be successful. I like to think of that as a compliment. College isn’t anything to be afraid of but have a smart game plan on how you will succeed. Happy college planning!



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