College is a major expense and you need to start saving now, if you haven't already. Two of the first people you should talk to about paying for college is your parents, and your school counselor. Having initial conversations with your parents and your counselor will not only get you thinking about the important aspect of paying for school, but it will give you a general idea of what you can expect your school budget to be. Becoming familiar with as many possible sources of financial aid available is important. Get to know important application deadlines and what information you need to pinpoint ahead of time. Check to see if you are eligible for a grant or scholarship. Also check to see if a loan is a realistic option for you. Another financial aid option is work-study, where you will pay for your college tuition by working on campus. There are even tax credit programs for getting through college. Do your research and find the financing options that will work best for you and your parents. Why make this decision now? Because before you know it, financial aid applications will be due. Stay ahead of the game by learning about all of your options now. You can gain insightful information from virtual college tours, but before actually applying you should have a good idea of what campus life is like for each of your selections. Most colleges offer campus tours for new and potential students. You need to check each individual school for information on their tour program. However, they do share many things in common. For instance, you will definitely want to attend campus tours on a weekday on a normal school day. Holidays, weekends and big campus events like graduation tend to throw a wrench in the works insofar as your ability to gauge what the campus is really like. Spring break is a great time to get many campus tours out of the way because it will still be during the spring semester but you won't have to miss any school. While the majority of your tour consists of walking around campus with a guide, you can do many other things as well to ensure you gain a well-rounded perspective of the campus. For instance, you can stay overnight in one of the dorms to gain a sense of what it would be like to live there, what the students are like and the accommodations. You can eat in the cafeteria and you may even be able to schedule an interview. You can also sit in on a class or two. What are the instructors like? What is the classroom dynamic? Does it feel like an environment you'd like to be a part of? Have a list of questions prepared for each campus you visit. Keep a pen and pad of paper handy as you tour each campus, as well. You'll be quite busy and it's really easy to forget the details. This is an excellent opportunity to interact with current students of your prospective schools. Are they a part of any on-campus organizations you'd be interested in joining? Ask about it! Do they enjoy their classes? Loathe their professors? Need a break? Regardless, ask current students questions to gain a real life perspective on each campus in addition to what the scheduled tour can give you.
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