My biggest fear before starting college

College acceptance letters may inspire joy in the moment, but those feelings can quickly turn anxiety, writes Elissa Nadworny for NPR.

In fact, American students are more stressed about higher ed costs than their international counterparts, reports a new study by Sodexo.

The firm's International University Lifestyle report surveyed more than 4,000 students across Great Britain, the United States, Spain, Italy, India, and China about their views on the undergraduate experience.

Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf pulls out the following key findings about college stress:

  • 58% of American students indicate that they could not attend higher ed without a scholarship;
  • A third of students in both Europe and the United States considered dropping out over finances; and
  • Compared with other student groups, Americans are more worried about affording college.

What really drives college costs?

Low-income American students are particularly sensitive to college costs, reports Nadworny. Many of them spend the summer before college scrambling to cover first-year finances, says Torri Hayslett, a college manager at McKinley Technology High School.

Almost a third of low-income students accepted to college never start their freshman year because of finances, reports Nadworny.

If students aren't able to gather the money, they may start school a semester late or try to snag an available spot at a local community college, she notes. But both options place scholarship money on the line, she explains.  

Ease the transition to campus for first-gen students

Watching students struggle to fill their unmet need can feel disheartening, says Shaquinah Wright, director at College Bridge.

For many of these students, the "finish line keeps getting further away," says Wright. To help prospective students sort out their finances, institutions should send clearer financial award letters and high schools should support students with a year-round college counselor, she argues.

Students and their families should also prioritize honest discussions about college finances before the application process, recommends Damoni Tolson, a freshman at St. Augustine's University (Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 9/27; Nadworny, NPR, 9/27)

How to predict the student "unmet need" cliff

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