5 tips on the biggest investment you will ever make: a college education

Updated: Jan 19

A college education is likely to be the most expensive commodity you will ever purchase. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents. This does not include the cost of housing or books, or the 6 years it will likely take your student to finish. With these exorbitant prices, here are a few hints for students that will help reduce your costs and maximizing your investment.

1. Make it your goal to graduate in 4 years. The average is 6. Yes, 6! Those extra 2 years will greatly increase your costs.

2. Choose the right school so that you don't lose credits by transferring. 60% of bachelor's degree recipients change schools, with almost half of them losing some of their credits when they transfer.

3. Select a major that best fits your natural abilities, acquired skills and future aspirations. 50% – 75% of students change their majors at least once and most of these will change majors 3 or more times (!) before they graduate, delaying graduation and driving up college costs.

4. Don't borrow more than you can reasonably pay back. The average graduate has $25,000 in student loans and over $4,000 on credit cards. Financial advisor Liz Weston recommends that student loan payments do not exceed 10% of expected monthly gross income and that students limit total borrowing to no more than 2/3 of their expected first year’s salary.

5. Take the time during high school to identify your strengths, investigate career fields, understand job market trends, and determine your next steps before you enter college. College is too expensive to simply serve as 4 years away from home spent living, learning and growing in to adulthood. There are much cheaper options to accomplish that.