There's a lot you may not know about college life

My Story: What We Learned about College Life

contributed by Rick Fowler

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With the end of our daughter's Junior year of college approaching quickly, my wife and I have asked ourselves what we learned (at least monetarily speaking) from her first three years of college life that can help our soon-to-be college freshman son.

First, as far as finances go, nothing is a given. For instance, we have estimated the cost of books and supplies inaccurately in each of our daughter's six semesters of classes because we were too conservative. For instance, a book that we estimated to be $60 came to $85 in reality. And so the reality of book buying went.

Second, well before the freshman year is completed, roommates need to be located for the ensuing year that can truly be responsible, especially for housing rental (deposit). My daughter was very fortunate to have had responsible and reliable people to share the two separate apartments she has lived in thus far. However, she was on top of things and had the foresight to budget for the next year's lease before the school year began in the fall. In other words, we learned that planning early for events like these is crucial to our kid's financial and emotional outlook amidst all the turmoil and anxiety they already have with tests, etc.

Third, always, always, always fill out any new scholarships that might be found and revisit the FAFSA forms each year to update financial information. My daughter garnered a $500 scholarship this year and the FAFSA turned in our favor a bit this tax season, which we wouldn't have known unless we revisited the form online.

The fourth essential "must" for our son is to encourage him to work as much as possible in the summer and to save, save, save as much as possible. In order for us to contribute our fair share, he must also contribute. We expect him to contribute at least enough for a deposit on an apartment, two semesters of books, and access to the sporting events he might want to attend at his chosen school.

Finally, in each of the last three years, we have learned a lot about college life. Now we are hoping that we have educated ourselves enough to help with the transition from high school to college that our son will be going through and to make it as painless as possible on all of our wallets.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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