College is expensive – there’s no question about that. The fear of student loan debt has even driven some students to forgo college altogether. But, according to USA TODAY, the investment is still worth it: college graduates continue to earn far more over a lifetime than those with just a high school diploma.

For those looking to start school the financially-savvy way this fall, here are a few tips from a 2013 Wakefield survey, among 500 enrolled college students, for CourseSmart:

  • Factor potential debt into your college decision. In 2013, 22% of students said student loan debt was not a factor in their decision of where to go. Make a budget beforehand, and make sure the tuition is one you’ll be able to pay off in a reasonable amount of time after graduation.
  • Discuss a financial plan with your parents. Last year, 28% of students didn’t discuss college payments with their parents at all – and that’s a sure-fire way to end up with unexpected bills.
  • Consider your post-grad life. The students who said they would graduate with student loan debt said it would affect the place they lived after graduation (61%), the type of job they look for (56%) and how many jobs they work (46%). Make sure your financial plan takes into account the years after graduation: will you have to forgo your dream job to pay off all that debt?