- Wendy Williams
Tips to Cut the Cost of College
Parents always say, where has time gone? That they cannot believe their child is getting one step closer to college. What your not hearing parents say is the stress they are starting to feel with the thought of what college is going to cost and can they afford the school their child wants to attend.
Whether you are buying a home, leasing a car or paying for college, one key element that plays an important role in all of these circumstances is being an educated consumer. One way to look at the cost of college is comparing it to a plane ticket and that everyone pays something different. Understand and learn how to help cut the cost of college.
• If paying for your child’s tuition is going to be difficult, make sure you obtain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) before taking the leap into the college process. Colleges use your ECF to calculate your financial aid eligibility. Use the following link to help you see what you will need to contribute to your child’s college costs.
• Use a net calculator BEFORE applying to colleges. Why before applying? Because you don’t want to have your child excited about attending a school and than realizing they can’t because the costs are exorbitant. Net calculators will help you determine what the cost will be after scholarships and/or need based aid has been applied. Most colleges and universities participate in the federal financial aid system so they should have a net calculator on their website. The one downside of the net calculator is some schools use a federal template which isn’t always accurate, so you might want to also speak with the school.
• Apply for merit based scholarships. Merit scholarships are awarded on the basis of achievement rather than need and no two merit scholarships are the same. Merit scholarships are the most highly visible scholarship opportunity that is available for high school seniors.
• Understand what need based aid versus merit based aid is. Need based aid can come from either the federal government or the state government. The federal government defines financial need by comparing your income and savings to the cost of college. Merit based aid is not based on what a family’s financial situation is but what your students talents are. This form of aid is commonly given through scholarships as stated earlier.
• Always ask for more money if you feel the award is low. You can contact the college and appeal the amount awarded because you received a better award from a different college or just because you want more money. Also, look for your EFC on the award letter (which is typical in very small print). Knowing your EFC will let you know if the award is actually going to help financially or not.
• If you are able to, ditch lousy test results. This will save you valuable time and money. Have your child apply to test optional schools if their test grades are poor. About 40% of the top liberal art colleges are test optional. Go to the following link to learn more about this. http://fairtest.org/
• This next tip is pretty much common sense but needs to be said regardless. Save as much as you can. No matter what, being in a stronger financial position is beneficial, especially these days.
• Need financial aid? If so, Federal Direct Student Loans are the way to go. There are several great factors about using federal student loans such as you do not have to start paying the loan back immediately, they offer low interest rates, there is no interest charge, no credit check is required and you don’t need a cosigner. See the following link for more information.
• Don’t rely on luck. No matter how good your students grades are, how well their test scores are or what extra curriculum activities they are involved in, never think financial awards is a guarantee. Always take the time to thoroughly research what scholarships, grants and awards are available at the college your student wants to attend.
• Remember, it’s important to have a game plan set before you start applying to colleges. By understanding your finances, what tools to use to help determine college costs and what aid is available to you whether it’s through a scholarship or a loan will make applying to college much easier.
Written by Jacqueline Barney