Stefan's Details

What's the Best Fit for Me? Choosing a College

Make Sure You Know Why You're Going

Examine yourself and your reasons for going to college before you start your search. Why, really, are you going? What are your abilities and strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you want out of life? Talk with your family, friends, and high-school counselors as you ask these questions. The people who know you best can help you the most with these important issues.

Know Yourself and Find a College that's a Good Fit

Choosing a college because your friends are going there or because of where it ranks on a list does not take into account who you are and who you will become. Finding a good fit requires time and thoughtfulness.

Visit college web sites and learn about events, who visits as guest speakers, and how to get in touch with current students and faculty. Or, plan a visit to your top choices and make time to sit in on classes, eat in the dining hall, and hang out in the student center or other high traffic areas.

You Can Afford to Go to College

If you make the assumption that you cannot afford college based on the "sticker price" of tuition, you will miss out. It is difficult to talk about money, but if you investigate all of your options and ask for help and advice, you will find affordable choices.

Take Action:


photo of Stefan"I didn't think a whole lot about where I wanted to go to college. I went to a community college close by because a lot of my friends were going, but I didn't really know what I wanted to do."

Cost: Sticker vs. Net Price

"Sticker" Price

The "sticker price" of a college is it's advertised cost. The estimated average cost of a California Community College is around $2,800 per year for a full-time student. Costs include tuition, fees, books and supplies. You will also need to factor housing, transportation, and personal expenses into your costs.

"Net" Price: Most Families Pay Less than Full Price

The net price of college is the total cost minus scholarships and grants you receive - this can greatly reduce costs for many students.

Net college cost based on family income

Find out how to calculate your 'Net Price' (1:14)

Take Action:

photo of Stefan"I think I’m gonna end up paying more because I didn't plan things. I never met with a counselor so I didn't take the right classes. I also ended up failing a lot of my I have to go back and retake those classes for a better grade."

Time to Degree

Do Everything You Can to Make Sure You Graduate on Time

Taking too long in college can cost you thousands of dollars and decrease your graduation chances.

graph showing that after 6 years in college, graduation chances decrease and cost steadily increases. Taking longer than 6 years to graduate is high risk.

Source: Complete College America

*Note: Federal and state financial aid programs have maximum limits so be sure to understand your financial aid options if you plan on attending college for more than 4-5 years. The Cal Grant maximum is 8 semesters, the Pell Grant maximum 12 semesters, and federal loans have aggregate limits.

Take Action

  • Meet with an academic advisor to make sure you take the classes you need.
  • Plan your schedule: Read the College Board suggestions for how to schedule your first year of college classes.
  • Take a full load of classes.

photo of Stefan"I was working about 30 hours a week and going to school full time, so maintaining balance was tough. I shouldn't have worked so many hours, especially since I was able to get financial aid. I thought I could handle it, but it wasn't until I was on probation that I spoke with counselor to figure out what I was doing wrong."

Paying for College

Stefan's Plan: Pluses and Minuses

Stefan started out well - he applied for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year and qualified for grants (free money!).

Stefan worked full-time even though he got financial aid. Because he was working so many hours, he wasn't able to focus on school, was placed on probation, and lost his grant eligibility.

Stefan borrowed the maximum amount of loans offered "just because" and spent them on things that weren't necessary. This can create high monthly loan payments once he stops going to school, which will greatly limit his independence.

Education is an investment in yourself and your community. Be proactive to ensure you get the most out of your financial aid!

Ways You Can Pay

Income/Debt Ratio

Salary: $17,800. Student Debt: $4,600 = Risky.

Stefan took out student loans when he didn't really need them. If he doesn't return to school, he will need to start paying off his loans on his current salary, which may cause him financial hardship.

Stefan didn't take advantage of the college resources available to him, such as financial and academic counseling, which may have prevented him from accruing this much debt so early in his academic career.

Stefan can still turn things around by talking to an academic advisor to seek assistance in choosing a major that is right for him. With guidance from his academic advisor and clear career objectives, Stephan will take the right courses that will result in timely completion. The decisions he makes now will have a huge impact on his future and the amount of student loan debt he accrues.

As a general guideline, the total debt for your degree should not be more than what you will likely earn your first year working in your field.

Take Action

  • Find the right career path and major for you at Who Do U Want 2B?
  • Make sure you understand the terms of your loan such as interest rate and repayment terms.
  • Budget your time and money carefully in college so that you don't have to borrow the maximum loan amount.