Students spend more time planning prom than college finances - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Students spend more time planning prom than college finances

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Source: AP Source: AP

BATON ROUGE, La. – (KNOE 8 News) - This prom season high school girls will spend weeks struggling to find the perfect dress – will it be gold metallic, ravishing red, bright white or the hottest color? The dress is just the beginning.

Prom costs for girls also include the perfect shoes, jewelry, a salon visit and a boutonniere. Expenses for boys can include tuxedo, accessories, shoes, vests, ties, hair, prom tickets, dinner, corsage, photographs and transportation.

LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker cites a Sallie Mae study that revealed about half of high school senior girls shop for two or more weeks to pick out their dream dress and half of senior boys spend two or more weeks deciding whom to ask to the big event.

The online survey of more than 500 high school seniors aged 17-18 who plan to go to college also determined that girls will pay approximately $200 for their dress and boys plan to spend about $200 for their prom expenses.

Two weeks spent planning for the prom is significant; however, when it comes to college, nearly half of the high school seniors surveyed spent five or fewer hours learning how to pay for a four year degree, Tucker said.

"The $400 price tag for prom expenses pales in comparison to the average $17,000 price tag for college," she said. "With the right tools, planning how to pay for college is time well spent."

Tucker and Sallie Mae offer the following tips and resources as the Class of 2013 prepares for college:

– Ask for the gift of education. A picture frame or electronic gadget can be great, but the gift of education can last a lifetime. Loved ones can give financial gifts directed to eligible college savings funds including 529 college saving plans.

– It's not too late to apply for federal grants. Even though some deadlines have passed, students can still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for Louisiana's Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), federal grants and search for last-minute scholarships.

– Make summer count. Get work experience and extra funds with a summer job. If you can't find one right away, offer your services as a volunteer.

– Familiarize yourself with the financial aid office where you'll be going to school. Talk to the campus financial aid officer, especially if family finances have changed since financial aid forms were submitted.

– Be smart about student loans. If you need to borrow, explore federal student loans first and fill the gap with responsible private loans. Borrow only what you need.

– Make a plan. Be sure to have a plan to pay for an entire degree – not just one year at a time. Sallie Mae's free Education Investment Planner can help. Students can explore federal or private student loans, estimate monthly loan payments and project the starting salary needed after graduation to keep payments manageable. Get more information at www.SallieMae.com/invest.

After students have investigated and made plans for their college costs, Tucker suggested they find ways to save money on prom costs. Some tips include:

– Plan ahead.

– Sit down with your parents and your date to determine a reasonable amount to spend.

– Discuss overall costs and who pays for each item.

– Carpool with other couples and split the transportation costs.

– Borrow a dress, rent one from a formalwear store or buy from a consignment clothing shop.

– Do your own hair and makeup or save money with an appointment at a local cosmetology school instead of an expensive salon.

– Use accessories you already have or borrow from a friend or family member.

– Consider a formal dinner with friends at home rather than dining out.

– Ask a friend or family member to take photos to capture the memory.

Attending the prom doesn't have to cost a fortune – and neither does college. Consider budgeting for these events as valuable financial planning opportunities.

With appropriate budgets, Tucker said, prom-goers can still experience memorable events at the prom and throughout their college years.

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