Thank you to all the parents who have shared tips, tricks and information about financing college. I joined the Paying For College 101 Facebook group about a year ago, at the beginning of my daughter’s 11th grade of high school and I have learned so much.
I can’t imagine trying to navigate the college process without the knowledge shared by you.
My daughter just got her early financial aid estimate from Whitman College, which required me completing both the FAFSA and the CSS – forms I didn’t even know anything about a year ago.
I am thrilled to report that the time I took to do those forms was worth it.
Whitman is now her top choice and more importantly even though I assumed it was not going to be financially possible I was wrong.
I can make the finances work. In fact, based on the NPC (net price calculator) for other schools, Whitman may end up being the most affordable for me.
I am breathing a huge sigh of relief.
To give back to all those who gave me advice along the way, here’s a list of my lessons learned that can maybe help you and your student in their college admissions journey…
Visit colleges starting early in high school.
Stop in and tour when you are on vacation to look at big schools , small schools , small towns big cities. Get a feel for all kinds of schools. If there are colleges in your town, or close by stop in to visit when you can.
Determine how far away they want to go to college.
Talk about what they want and help them decide whether they want to stay local or go far. If you can’t afford to pay for travel to and from a far place or you have other circumstances that make you think close to home is better – that will guide your list. Help them understand limitations early.
Run the NPC. Run the NPC. Run the NPC.
Run the net price calculator every place you visit and every place they are interested. If you can’t afford it, take the school off your list.
Don’t Wait To Have The Money Talk
Start talking about money and what you can afford as soon as you start talking about college.
[Read Talking To Your Kids About An Affordable College]
Examine Your Budget To Find More Ways To Save
Take a hard look at your finances. What can you really afford? Is there any place in your budget to cut so you can find some extra cash? Do you have a possible side gig to bring in money to help fund college? What do you expect your kid to contribute? If you were smart enough to save or have relatives who will help, research the best ways for how to use these extra contributions.
Decide how much you are willing to pay and have that number at the forefront of your student’s college choices.
It may be that you would be willing to pay a bit more for one school over another for a variety of reasons- thats OK you get to decide what the priorities are.
Encourage and support your kids to work to their academic potential.
Help your students develop good organizational skills and study habits early. It really helps to get good grades. I can’t stress this enough.
Don’t apply to a lot of schools.
Don’t buy into the current idea that they need to apply to a crazy number of schools with safety, reach etc. Figure out what schools would be a good fit academically, socially and financially and only apply there. Your list may be short, that’s OK.
Finish testing as early as possible.
If you can, have them complete the SAT and ACT by the end of junior year and have them spend time working on the common app essay and other essays in the summer before senior year.
Don’t delay in asking for references.
Figure out who to ask for references as soon as you can, end of junior year.
Applying early has benefits.
Complete the applications as soon as possible. Some schools waive application fees for people applying early.
If the school has the option of an early financial aid projection even if it is more work on the front end it is worth it to have something official beyond the NPC.
Continue to research and visit in person, when possible.
Revisit your top choice places or re watch the virtual tour as you make your choice.
Involve your student in financial decisions.
Plan a time to look at all financial aid offers together. Help them understand that the sticker price cost of attendance and the cost to your family may be different. If you plan well and approach the college admissions process strategically, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
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