This is an exciting time of year when seniors are finalizing their college lists and getting applications and essays completed. Juniors may be starting to explore different types of colleges, which is thrilling as well. But for many families, the cost of college looms over the entire process. If you’re one of the fortunate families for whom the cost of college doesn’t matter, this blog isn’t for you. But for the rest of us, here are some effective strategies for making sure that cost doesn’t hinder the overall excitement.
- Be upfront and honest with your student. If cost is going to play a role in the final decision, best to tell the student ahead of time. It can be a big disappointment to get to the end of the entire process, with a favorite college in mind to attend, and then be told it isn’t affordable. You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty of your financial situation, but just let them know that cost will play a role.
- Mention cost clearly and often. Make the cost of college part of each stage of the process, including at the very beginning. Let the student know if they will be expected to take out loans. Let them know how much you are willing to spend. Tell them what work study means and that they may have to do it to make ends meet. Let them know how and when loans are paid back. Going over the ins and outs of paying for college keeps their head, and emotions, in the game.
- Have a financial safety school (or a few) on the list. If the cost of college is a factor, it’s a good idea for the student’s college list to include a few more affordable options. We cover more of that in this previous blog post. State colleges and those with big endowments that are also easier for your child to get in to based on their merits are schools that may be more affordable.
- Fill out a FAFSA. On October 1, federal financial aid applications become available. The FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid), is one that all colleges require parents and students to fill out in order to be eligible for aid. Some parents feel that they won’t qualify for aid, and so why apply? In this blog post, we outline some of the reasons it may be worth it to apply even if you don’t think you need financial help.
- Don’t forget the CSS Profile. Some of the more selective private colleges also require that the CSS Profile is filled out and submitted. Check each college’s financial aid webpage for all the requirements.
- Keep eyes and ears open for scholarships. There are plenty of scholarship websites out there, and a simple Google search will lead you to some. But one of the more effective ways to find scholarship money is to look local. Ask at parents’ places of business, ask other local businesses, check with your high school. There is money out there to be had if you spend the time to search and apply for it.
- Ask for a free Campus Bound financial aid consultation. Our financial experts are at the ready to answer your questions and provide guidance and feedback about paying for college. We offer services for families as well, but the consultation is free of charge.
- Weigh the pros and cons. At the end of the process, a student (ideally) will have a few colleges they are accepted to. That’s when more in-depth conversations need to happen about exactly who will pay for what. A college counselor can meet with you to go over the cost-benefit of each school.
Paying for college is never an easy subject for families. But being upfront, honest and open about the ability to pay and expectations for how cost will play a role in the final college decision, can help. Campus Bound financial experts are also here to help. Be in touch for a quick consultation that will get your preliminary questions answered and pave the way for a less stressful financial aid process.