As the summer days get shorter and back to school time is upon us, many high school families will begin the exciting and surprisingly expensive college journey. One question I am frequently asked is” how do we afford college?” Parents that attended college 20 years ago are greatly surprised by the changes in the college landscape from tuition costs to how parents are now expected to be the major funder of their child’s education. One of the best ways for families to enjoy the journey to college is prepare early with a financial and academic review that begins in their child’s freshman year of high school.
So what are a few fundamental points families need to know regarding financial affordability?
Government financial aid will likely not be a white knight saving the day – All families are naturally interested in federal and state “need based” financial aid but are be quickly disappointed with the qualification requirements and the lack of funding available. The reality of true “need based” financial aid is a small piece of the financial aid equation for many families. For those families receiving “need based” financial aid, the award amounts are miniscule to the rising costs of tuition.
Focus on academic performance for merit based aid – Merit aid is one of the most effective ways for students to reduce the high cost of college tuition. If families begin the process early in the high school years, they can work with their children to ensure that they are doing their academic best in the classroom and taking a rigorous class schedule. Standardized testing for many colleges is still a big piece of the merit based equation, so it is imperative that students do their best on either the SAT or ACT test. Students should be pushing themselves academically with a clear goal in mind.
Create a comprehensive college list that fits a student’s academic performance and the family’s financial situation – There are thousands of colleges in the United States with diverse campus settings and challenging degree offerings that often go overlooked. A well-crafted college list will save money by not wasting application fees on colleges that are unaffordable or academically unrealistic. Additionally, a well-crafted college list should focus on schools that are likely to be generous with merit aid in conjunction with the student’s academic background, and a family’s college budget. This is an area where I excel and can be a valuable asset to families with college bound students. My goal is to present colleges (which in some cases may never have been considered) that offer strong academics, generous merit aid, fit the personalized goals of a student, and are affordable to the family budget.
The earlier a student and their family engage in the college planning process, the greater the likelihood is of reaching their personalized goals. The college process is a time consuming journey that many are unprepared to handle alone due to demanding extracurricular, academic and family schedules. Campus to Career Crossroads is a partner for the college journey and welcomes the opportunity to provide short or long-term planning to safeguard the college investment. Call today for a free consultation.