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May 03, 2017 12:52 AM EDT

Every May 1, high school seniors pick the colleges they want to go to the coming fall. Now, one of the most important deciding factors is money. Financial decision is actually part of the US educational system.

For the academic year 2016 to 2017, the average total cost of a year at a public college in America was $20, 090. The private college experience is double that amount at roughly $45, 370. According to CNBC, families can avoid this expensive debt trap by following four simple steps. Below are the things to remember before making a choice on the next National College Decision Day:

Take advantage of all educational grants

Foremost, students and parents need to determine the difference between aids and grants. The latter usually does not have to be repaid. Apparently, every time someone gets a scholarship, it is advisable to ask about the school's "displacement" policy. This is one tricky way to reduce the value of the student debt by including it as part of an income.

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Approximate future compensation

Nowadays, colleges provide students with placement rates and average salaries for a particular program. Applicants should then use these data to estimate how much money they will earn after graduation. This way, they will be able to weigh the consequences of each student loan.

Know the best options available

Commonly, federal programs would be the most affordable choice for undergraduate tuition. It has a current interest rate of 3.76 percent. However, there are limits on how much one could borrow each school year. Thus, parents may want to turn to PLUS loans, which have an interest rate of 6.31 percent.

Be practical

Applicants must know the exact cost of the chosen school. Fortunately, most colleges have a net price calculator on their websites. Students and parents just need to answer "detailed questions" about their finances, so it is better to prepare tax returns and copies of bank accounts.

On the other hand, an earlier University Herald report said that financial problem often hinders students from choosing the best colleges. Most of the time, they end up choosing lower ranked schools because they could not afford the ones with better facilities and higher success rates. Free tuition also serves as effective bait during college decision days.

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