What do you want to be when you grow up? When you look at the world around you, you'll realize that there are all sorts of exciting possibilities. From doctors and teachers to bankers and network engineers, there are many different ways people choose to spend their days earning a living.

It's important to start thinking now about what you want to be many years from now. Why? It's going to take a lot of planning to get you to your goal! For most professions, you won't be able to simply start working the day after graduating from high school. Instead, you'll likely need to go back to school for more training.

More school? That's right! Most popular professions will require you to have a college degree. During your time in college, you'll focus on specific subjects that will help you qualify for the job you ultimately want.

College will be different from high school in many ways. For example, while everyone has to go to high school, you'll find that colleges will be home only to those students who want to continue their education at a higher level. To get into college, you'll have to make good enough grades to get accepted. Also, college courses often move at a fast pace because they last only a semester, instead of an entire school year.

You'll also have to be able to afford to go to college. Unless you went to a private high school, you probably didn't pay much to attend high school, other than a few book fees. For the vast majority of students, the cost of college is startling.

The cost of college varies widely depending upon many factors. For example, public colleges tend to be much less expensive than private colleges, at least for in-state residents. This is because public institutions receive public financing from tax monies that make them more affordable.

The costs of college can usually be broken down into three basic categories: tuition, books, and housing. Tuition is the cost of taking classes at a college. This amount varies the most widely between different colleges. Tuition at a public four-year college can average between over $9,000 per year for in-state students to almost $23,000 per year for out-of-state students. Tuition at a private four-year college can average over $31,000 per year.

The cost of books is usually quite low, compared to tuition and housing. How much you pay for books will depend largely on the types of classes you take and if you purchase brand new or gently used books. They're still not cheap, though. The College Board estimates that you can plan to spend approximately $1,200 on books yearly.

Housing is another substantial expense that can vary greatly, depending upon whether you live at home and commute, live on-campus in a residence hall, or live off-campus in an apartment. Housing is usually called "room and board," since this figure usually includes an estimate for food in addition to the dorm room in which you live. The College Board estimates that room and board can average over $9,800 at public colleges and over $11,000 at private colleges per year.

When you consider all of these expenses together, an average in-state public college can cost you over $23,000 per year, while an average private college can cost you over $46,000 per year. That's a lot of money!

In addition to these costs, there will be several other expenses to consider. For example, you'll need certain basic supplies, such as notebooks, pens, and pencils, to be successful in college. You'll also need to account for transportation expenses to and from school. While these costs can be minimal compared to tuition and housing, you'll need to account for them when you're budgeting for college.

Fortunately, the amount of money you end up paying out of your pocket for college can be much less than the amounts previously discussed. Many students receive scholarships to help pay for their college costs. These can be academic or athletic. In addition, most students qualify for financial aid, which is money that is given or loaned to students to help pay for college.

Even with scholarships and financial aid, college can be a big expense, so start saving now! College is an expense that pays off, though, as a recent study has shown that full-time working college-degree holders earn an average of $17,500 more per year than those with high school diplomas only. Getting your college degree is a valuable investment that will pay dividends for a lifetime!

Wonder What's Next?

Join us in Wonderopolis tomorrow for a look at some rings more famous than diamonds!