When it comes to the difficult, complex parts of life, there’s nothing like getting advice from someone who’s been there. That’s why we love our Facebook group, Paying for College 101.
Our community share advice and tips with each other every single day. No matter where a family is in the process, there’s something to learn and something to share!
Here’s some recent advice that came out of our Facebook group. We’d love to have you in our community as well – join today!
Choosing Where to Apply Financially
One of the things parents talk about in our group often is how to 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.
One parent said, “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!”
Another parent helpfully pointed out, “You are NOT where you attend!”
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!
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.
One parent pointed out, “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.”
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. One parent said, “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.”
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.
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 vital to choose a degree that will give them the ability to pay off any student loans.
Someone who is uncertain can get a general business degree, but often students know what they want to do. From being a veterinarian to being a nurse to being a teacher, there are dozens and dozens of programs available.
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. One parent shared, “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.”
Our parents are happy to share their experiences – good and bad – with other members of the group. There’s nothing like getting advice from someone who’s been there. We’re grateful to have these great families in our online community!
Are you looking for help paying for college? We’re here for you. Check out our scholarship toolkit today!
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