Starting the college journey is a significant milestone for both the parents and students. It is a time filled with anticipation and excitement in preparing for such a big change. This blog highlights 5 tips to help your kids achieve a successful transition to college.
Tip #1 – Be Proactive and Do Your Research:
Schools nowadays are more and more competitive, so early engagement can go a long way when it comes to getting accepted. It is important to be proactive and begin researching well in advance so you can make sure it is a good fit. Consider the majors that are offered at the school, the size of the school, campus type (city vs college town), the all-in cost of attendance, and then finally do your research and find out what scholarships are available. (See here for a video resource that expands more on this topic specifically- https://vimeo.com/809793385).
Tip #2 – Stay Open to Out of State Opportunities:
It is a common misconception that in-state schools are always cheaper than out-of-state schools. For example, although an out-of-state school will have a higher tuition compared to an in-state school, out-of-state schools will often offer additional scholarships and financial aid to bring the total cost of attendance down. In many situations, this results in a lower total out of pocket to go out of state vs in state for undergrad. One caveat here is that this only plays a role in evaluating public schools. If it is a private school, the cost is what it is regardless of in-state vs out-of-state. (See here for a video resource that expands more on this topic specifically https://vimeo.com/809793509).
Tip #3 – Properly Research Scholarship and Financial Aid Opportunities:
There are many types of scholarships. The most common are called merit-based scholarships which students are automatically considered for based on the factors of their application (such as GPA, SAT / ACT scores, etc.) Additional competitive scholarships are also offered for specific majors, honors colleges, and fellowship opportunities that are available. These generally require more work such as an essay, but they can lead to additional financial aid that is well worth it in the long run. Once scholarships are maximized at the university level, research what is offered at your local level. Some examples include your local school district, local chamber of commerce, local organizations, and parent employers. The bottom line is there are many opportunities for financial aid above what is typically considered, so it is important to do your research ahead of time to make sure you are maximizing all sources of financial aid to drive your out-of-pocket cost down as much as possible. (See here for a video resource that expands more on this topic specifically https://vimeo.com/809793742).
Tip #4 – Understand Student Loans:
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is an application that is based on the parents’ assets and income. This determines the student’s eligibility for financial aid for college, and if you do not fill this out, you will not be eligible for any federal aid, including grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans. If you are eligible, you may be able to get free financial grants. If you are not eligible, every applicant is awarded the $5,500 Stafford loan no matter what. There are two types of Stafford loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized Stafford loans are available to applicants who demonstrate financial need, and the government pays the interest on these loans while the borrower is enrolled in school at least half-time. Unsubsidized Stafford loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need, and the borrower is responsible for paying the interest on the loan while in school and during other periods. (See here for a video resource that expands more on this topic specifically https://vimeo.com/809793991).
Tip #5- Understand Financial Aid Appeals:
A financial aid appeal for college is a formal request made by a student to a college or university’s financial aid office to review and possibly increase their financial aid package. Some common reasons for a financial aid appeal may include changes of income, unexpected medical expenses, or other extenuating circumstances that have affected the student’s ability to pay for college. In addition, part of the college world is also a business. If you are thinking of a smaller private school that is prioritizing new enrollment for example, it is possible that they will offer additional aid if you try to negotiate. (See here for a video resource that expands more on this topic specifically https://vimeo.com/809794274).
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