College Admissions & Financing: Parents Offer Advice
That’s why so many families turn to our Paying For College 101 Facebook group.
Our community offers support and shares advice with each other about every aspect of the college admissions process every single day.
We’d love to have you in our community as well – join today!
Here are some words of wisdom that recently came out of the group.
Choosing Where to Apply Financially
It’s common for the parents in the group to discuss how to realistically set their student’s expectations for where they can attend school.
Many times students – especially those who excel – assume they can go anywhere they want. What they don’t realize is that highly selective schools don’t offer merit aid.
As a result, unless they have significant financial need, the university will not help them pay for school.
Use a Net Price Calculator to fully understand your costs so you can accurately explain them to your student.
“Sit down with your student and explain dollars and sense. Do not sugar coat reality. Money does not grow on trees and student loan debt is real!!! Show on paper the amount of money that has been saved for their college expenses (if any) and then show them the costs of attending various schools.” — Karen
“When my son was looking for a college to attend, the first thing I would do was look at cost. If it was cost prohibitive (more than 35K including housing) I wouldn’t even let him apply. That narrowed our pool greatly. We couldn’t get our hopes up for ‘that one scholarship that might come in’ because we wanted to be able to do it without the scholarship money. He ended up at a college out of state and ended up with the Presidential Scholarship which was icing on the cake!” — Caroline
“We mapped out a full budget for the entire four years of college, including discussing his preferences/desires regarding Greek life, travel, study abroad, summer employment (and compared the differences between options based on cost, merit awards, etc.) before he made his final choice of school. We then put the final agreement in writing so there are no misunderstandings about what is our expense and what is on him.” — Nancie
“Remember the “other fees” travel to and from during holidays ( we are over 2,000 miles away-the app “Hopper” is helpful to watch flights), tuition going up after a certain amount of credits and auto expense (sometimes it is not worth having a car at school).’ — Amy
Don’t let naysayers hold your student back from a reasonable school. Ultimately, it’s your child’s and your family’s future at stake!
“You are NOT where you attend!” — Marjorie
Get the Help You Need
Some high schools have great guidance counselors that help families tremendously when it comes to college admission. Unfortunately, many others do not.
Because counselors see so many students and have to help so many families, they have a hard time being familiar with the specifics of your situation.
“Counselors have very limited information to assist your child in knowing what may or may not be financially feasible for your child. In some schools, counselors are barely keeping their head above water doing day-to-day stuff beyond creating a personalized plan of action for every senior they see.” — Gail
If you have access to classes that help students and parents learn about the realities of the college process, take them! Sometimes there’s an information night, or there may be a multi-week class.
Attend and take your student with you.
You can’t start your research too early. If it’s already senior year, you’ve probably missed some valuable opportunities. You can start moving the process forward during the freshman year, and take steps each year afterward.
Know the Reality of Merit Aid
Many of the parents in our group said they were surprised by the lack of merit aid for their hard-working student.
“Mine had an amazing resume, GPA, scores and certified EMT at the same time during senior year with multiple AP and DE classes. Worked, volunteered etc. No merit aid anywhere.” — Andrea
Before you get discouraged, keep in mind that the most competitive private schools do NOT offer merit aid. Many times these hardworking students are shooting for the most elite schools – and they will not get merit aid there.
Instead, consider having your student apply at a school where they will be among the top applicants. You can see the average test scores and GPAs of the last freshman class on most school websites. If your student would be in the top tier at that college, they are more likely to be offered merit aid.
Consider using our College Insights tool. It will provide you with a list of schools that will be most generous with their merit money, based on your student’s stats and preferences such as school size, location, and course of study.
Understand the Return on Investment for the College Major
It’s hard to insist that an 18-year-old know what they want to do with their lives, but it’s wise to choose a major that will have a positive impact on their lifetime earning power.
Someone who is uncertain can get a general business degree, but if your student is not interested in business, that won’t work.
Helping them determine what they are interested in can be a huge benefit.
From being a veterinarian to being a nurse to being a teacher, there are dozens and dozens of programs available.
It’s also important to remember that students change their majors in college quite often, so if they’ve picked one as a freshman, it doesn’t mean that major will stick.
Sometimes a school choice will be limited by the major. There may only be a few schools around you with strong electrical engineering programs, for instance.
That’s an important factor in choosing where to apply. Many times an educational exchange can help.
Be aware which dream jobs require advanced education because this will require additional funds.
“My oldest loved her time out of state but her job choice (audiologist) requires a doctorate. So she’s applying now to a graduate/doctorate programs and is realizing she should’ve stayed in state for her bachelors. Or even done two years of community college. Oh well. Lesson learned.” — Dan
Regardless of what you do, being organized about how to do it can also help lower everyone’s stress levels. Plan ahead. Be strategic.
“Start a spreadsheet.” — Jean
“Create a spreadsheet breaking down each financial aid offer in terms of: total cost, less the amount of scholarships & grants.” — Sabrina
“The biggest thing that helps in negotiations is for the admissions team to know your child. My daughter developed a relationship with her admissions counselor over a period of time and they were willing to fight for her.” — Jennifer
And don’t forget to rely on our College Insights tool to help you find schools that will be generous.
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