Aaron'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:

Source: npr.org

photo of Aaron"I got into a whole bunch of universities and submitted my financial aid application, but it still cost too much for my parents. Luckily, I was part of a college prep program that helped me look at all my options and understand that transferring from a community college would allow me to go to my top university."

Transfer Tips

  • See an academic advisor early and create a transfer plan.
  • Get good grades - getting into a 4-year university is not guaranteed.
  • Explore scholarships and financial incentives for transfer students.

Cost: Sticker vs. Net Price

"Sticker" Price

The "sticker price" of a university is it's advertised cost. The estimated average cost of a UC is around $14,750 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 a university is the sticker price 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 Aaron"The cost of my education, especially when I transferred, was affordable because I chose to go to a public university. I think living at home when I went to community college helped, too, since I was able to save some money on rent. I really wanted to study abroad when I transferred so I decided early on what I needed to do to reach my goals."


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

  • Make sure your ready for college-level math and English before arriving on campus.
  • 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 Aaron"I was just really motivated once I started my college classes because I love politics and was excited about studying abroad. I enrolled full-time and took summer classes when I could."


Paying for College

Aaron's Plan: Pluses and Minuses

Aaron lived at home and paid for his community college education by working part time. He did not take out any loans or grants until transferring since he knew it would cost more at the university.

Aaron maintained a 3.0 GPA at community college and received a small transfer scholarship (free money!).

Once he transferred to a 4-year university, Aaron applied for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every every year and received grants (free money!) and student loans with a low interest rate and friendly repayment terms.

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

Starting Salary: $42,500. Student Debt: $7,400 = Good Bet.

Aaron started planning for college early and participated in college prep programs offered at his high school.

Aaron paid for most of his community college education with money he earned form work and with help from his parents. He did not take out student loans until he transferred to a university, and only took them out for tuition and housing.

Aaron invested wisely in his college education. As a result, he's likely to have broader options for employment, access to higher paying jobs and better opportunities for advancing in his career.

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

  • Explore careers and salaries at O*Net Online.
  • 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.