By Campus Bound Founder, President and Financial Aid Lead, Gregg Cohen
I’ve heard people use the expression that being a parent can bring some long days but short years. The time can fly and there is no way to slow it down. Having helped thousands of people with the financial side of college, I know that many feel the same way about the prospect of paying for college. Generally speaking, this isn’t a deadline you can move. Unlike your retirement, where you may decide to delay a couple of years or get a second job, the first college bill will come quickly, in the summer after high school graduation.
There was an article in The Boston Globe recently that featured a Campus Bound Senior, Chloe. It was our pleasure to work with Chloe as she explored colleges, filled out applications and wrote essays. We also worked with her parents as they pursued financial aid options. Chloe and her parents were wise to include the cost of college as an important consideration throughout their process. You can read the article about Chloe, and other high school students, as they consider the cost of college, here.
The advice we gave Chloe is the same we give to every family: it is important to prepare early. The planning goes beyond just saving. Here are a few things to consider even before you start to pick colleges:
- Create your budget. Take the time to really evaluate how much you can afford. Is there a target number that you can spend and/or feel comfortable borrowing? If you work with a trusted financial advisor, they can be invaluable in understanding your options. There are many layers and creative options.
- Determine your eligibility for financial aid. Many families receive need-based aid. This can include grants that you don’t have to pay back from the college or government. There are online calculators that will give you an idea of the aid you may be eligible for. Colleges are required to have something called a Net Price Calculator on their sites that will base their estimates on their financial aid policies. These calculators aren’t always 100% reliable but they can be a starting point. At Campus Bound, we also provide an eligibility assessment for no charge. Colleges are now looking at your finances two years back so it is good to plan ahead.
- Identify colleges that may give the student merit scholarships. Colleges are discounting their tuition to get the student body that they want to meet their goals. Most schools know well that if they had to rely on full-pay students or just the need-based system there wouldn’t be enough students that would attend. If the need-based aid isn’t going to get you to your desired number, merit scholarships are a great avenue but it starts with the picking the right school to apply to.
Just as it is important to go through the college search and application process in a thorough and methodical manner, the same can be said for the financial side of things. Considering this fully and early in the beginning can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run and spare retirement savings, reduce debt, maximize grants, and avoid unnecessary taxes.
Campus Bound is proud to be able to offer families guidance around the financial aid part of the process. Please contact us today to start exploring how you make the college expenses a bit more manageable.