Today's struggling economy presents a wide span of obstacles for young people, one of which is figuring out how to pay for college. Many young people are the first person from their families to attend college and are not entirely sure what to expect.

Even for those who have family members who attended college, college life is constantly changing. In order to stay ahead of the game financially, it is essential for students to know exactly what type of expenses to expect in college.

College tuition is usually the first expense that comes to people's minds when preparing for school. Students and parents of students should know that tuition typically rises every year, so don't expect to pay what an older sibling paid for tuition six years ago.

Students should look into financial aid solutions several months before school begins in so that they do not come up short when the time comes to pay tuition. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or a FAFSA, provides students with options for that give priority to paying tuition.

It would be great if college tuition was the only expense that students had to cover. Sadly, this is not the world we live in. Students who go away to a four-year university also have room and board to think about.

Food and shelter, after all, are not things that anyone can go without. Some students find it more practical to attend their first two years of college at a community college. That way, they are able to live at home and thus avoid paying for housing and food. If that's not an option, which is often the case, students must make arrangements to live in a dorm or apartment, as well as food.

Most four-year universities require that freshmen live on campus, so dorms are often the only choice students have. And they are not cheap. Fortunately, FAFSA's also may be able to determine what assistance, if any, federal financial aid may be able to offer in terms of housing.

Schools also offer packages for their cafeteria meals that allow students to choose between several meals a week or just a few. Some students find it cheaper to cook their meals, if their dorm has kitchen facilities.

Far too often, students assume that once college tuition, room, and board are taken care of, that the remaining expenses are not too extraordinary. In reality, the remaining expenses can nickel and dime students and their parents into the poorhouse if not properly managed.

Room and board alone simply will not have a student covered on every day college life. It is crucial to prepare for items such as books, supplies, and of course pizza, for those late night cram sessions after the cafeteria has closed.

College tuition may be the heftiest college expense, but it is not the only one by any means. Before going to college or sending a child to college, make sure that the student has the right tools for success.