As an 18-year-old, it’s easy to see the world as nothing but possibility. And it’s true! But those possibilities come with costs and trade-offs, which is hard for teens to realize. As a parent, you play a big role in giving a big-picture view as your student makes choices about college. Being strategic about the colleges your student applies to, can help him or her avoid taking out student loans for college.
Don’t Wait Till Senior Year for the Talk
No, not that talk. The talk about money. When you put off the discussion about costs and financial budgeting, you’re missing the chance to set expectations. Students need to realize that their biggest financial boost will come from choosing the right school. They should make wise choices financially, not based on brand names or where their friends are going.
Start Estimating EFC and Net Prices in 9th Grade
We consistently hear from parents that are shocked by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) they are given. Avoid the sticker shock by starting to work with those numbers in early high school. Also, show your student how to understand the net price of a college, starting their freshman year. They’ll become much more savvy about where they want to apply.
Don’t Procrastinate on FAFSA
No one loves paperwork, and it can be especially hard when your family is involved in a variety of activities. However, the FAFSA is one of the key determinates to how financial aid is done. Your student will be eligible for lower cost loans, loan consolidation, state aid, and much more.
Don’t Rely on “Hope and Pray” as a Strategy
Teens often want to apply to competitive schools to see if they can get admitted. If they are, it’s natural to want to support them in attending this “dream” school. But the dream can quickly become a financial nightmare, for both you and your student. Instead, help them understand the importance of only applying to schools they can afford to attend.
Don’t Pay Out of State Tuition for a Public University
Public universities really stick it to out-of-state students. They use out-of-state tuition as a way to make up for state budget cuts. They also don’t usually give out-of-state students any financial aid. There’s no reason to pay the cost of a private school and only receive the resources of a public university. If your student has an in-state option, that’s the public school they should attend.
Don’t Believe Private Scholarships Are Your Payment Solution
Great grades don’t automatically equal a great scholarship to pay for school. This is especially true since many private scholarships are $1,000 or less, and only last for one year. Think about how many scholarships your student would have to apply for to make a difference in school costs. And if the awards don’t come through, a student often ends up with loans instead.
Stop Believing College Rank Equals Better Salary
Remember that there are no guarantees regarding graduation and jobs, even at the top-ranked schools. Even if your student has a slightly higher salary due to the brand of the school, it won’t make up for all the extra debt and debt payments they will have as well. The total amount borrowed shouldn’t be more than the annual salary upon graduation – and top-ranked schools are much more expensive than that.
Parents Make a Difference
As a parent, you play a vital role in helping your student understand the impact of borrowing money and the fact that it will follow them for years – sometimes decades – after they graduate. Help them avoid a nightmare of debt by setting boundaries during the college search process, and ensuring they only look at schools within their financial resources.
Students can only borrow $28,000 over four years or $31,000 over five years. Beyond that, a private student or parent loan is required. High schools, colleges, and banks don’t do a good job educating kids about the impact of debt. You’re the only line of defense your student has. Stand strong!
Steps to Use Road2College’s College Insights to Build Your College List
If you’re building a college list, find out which ones offer the most generous merit aid with our College Insights tool. College Insights gathers the most useful information from the Common Data Set and allows you and your family to quickly make comparisons across data points from multiple schools.
You do not need to do anything special if you’re using College Insights for the first time, but we recommend these steps:
- Create a free account and set up your student profile.
- Do a search of colleges based on a specific characteristic, such as whether they offer merit aid or if standardized testing is required.
- To see more than the sample list provided, upgrade to a paid account.
Try a broad search of colleges, especially if you are looking for colleges that can offer their student merit. By casting a wide net, such as all colleges where student GPA and test scores are at or above a college’s 75th percentile, you can see more schools. Then, sort by the average merit amount to narrow down schools that offer the most aid.
College Insights is most helpful in helping families do a “reverse look-up” where they can enter their student’s academic stats and any requirements for location, school size, and major. Once entered, College Insights provides a list of schools that meet that requirement and where the student has a likelihood of also receiving merit scholarships.
Whether you are finding out the affordability of a given list of programs, your child’s chances at admission, or simply figuring out if the college graduates most of its students in four years, College Insights can greatly simplify the process.
Without College Insights, a family needs to find and review each college’s CDS on their own, but you wouldn’t be able to filter, sort, and compare colleges as quickly.
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