You are about to finish high school. The financial aid office of the university you are considering gave you a financial aid. You are also qualified for student loans. Considering all of these factors, do you think you still need to borrow? If so, how much?

Budgeting in college life is no easy. But don’t worry, students. This article will guide you in creating a budget and setting limit for student loan borrowing according to your career choices.

The first thing you must do is to come up with a practical budget, which you can stick to while in college. This is not just about all kinds of spending. It is more of being honest with yourself when it comes to the amount to be spent on each expenditure. Talk to a family member or a close friend who is already in college regarding this matter. Jot down all possible expenses and set realistic amounts for each spending category. Some of the expense categories include tuition and fees, groceries/meal plan, clothing, housing and utilities, books/school supplies, and transportation. Remember, never forget to save.

Next, consult a financial aid officer or money management staff from every university you have searched for, either via phone or in person. Collate all of the figures from each college you have called. It is ideal to ask the student staff in the money management office or financial aid office to get a concrete idea on what their students spend monthly.

And lastly, compare the numbers gathered with the original budget to create a revised budget. Put the figures in a table. Start computing which colleges you can afford to attend. Deduct any family or personal contributions you are going to use, as well as scholarships and grants you will receive. The result will be the amount needed for your education, which will be compensated through student loans or a part-time job.

Is the budget enough to get you through college? If not, how much would you need? Consider obtaining a student loan or getting a part-time job. Get in touch with the institution’s career centers to find out available part-time jobs and salaries for students like you.

Aside from part-time jobs, ask about work-study and co-op programs. In a co-op job, certain employers hire college students to offer them on-the-job training while pursuing their studies. Working in this position gives you real-world experience and an advantage over other students especially when finding a job after college. Not to mention some co-op employers may offer you a position after graduation. Speaking of work-study jobs, talk to the academic advisor in the department of your prospective major and ask for the number of hours you can work while studying. It is advisable to talk to students working in the office who are studying within your major.

After knowing the amount you need to borrow, you still have to research if the post-graduate income can cover monthly loan payments. To determine, speak with a prospective college career to know the numbers on entry-level employment. For housing costs within the cities and neighborhoods, search apartment rental sites, ask friends living within the places, or call the university off-campus housing department.

Students, these numbers need not to be precise. No one knows exactly where you will be in four (or five) years. But having a post-graduation budget gives you an idea on the amount of money you can afford to borrow to finish college.

Reality check: dream university or affordable college? That is a sad, hard decision to make, but you have to anyway. You can answer this question by learning the amount you can borrow.