Most people know that good grades will get you into college. And maybe if they’re good enough (along with an appropriate essay and the right extracurriculars and recommendations), they might get you into your dream or reach college. But while good grades may get you into college, chances are they won’t pay for it with academic scholarships. This often comes as a surprise to students and their families but it really shouldn’t. There are 3 common situations where students aren’t going to qualify for enough academic scholarships to pay for college.
(The Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges List has been updated with information available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System in January 2021) Back when I was a freshman attending a rather large state university in Austin, Texas, I ran into quite a few students (relatively speaking) from the state of New York. They told me that they were attending college in Texas because our out-of-state tuition was cheaper than their in-state tuition. I only saw them that one year because the following year, the legislature raised out-of-state tuition and Texas was no longer as appealing to New Yorkers as it once was.
(Updated for 2021) If you want to get any financial aid, you need to submit college financial aid applications such as the FAFSA and PROFILE. This is obviously a critical step: no application, no aid. But if you want to pay less for college, it certainly isn’t the first step.
The fact is that the FAFSA is just one of the final steps of many in paying for college. I’m not talking about the savings account you were going to set up for your kids when they were little but never got around to. What I’m talking about are the things you need to know before students even start applying to colleges. Before you even start making a college search list, much less worrying about completing the FAFSA, you should know the following five things about paying for college.
As families approach the college planning process, there’s one thing they need to do before anything else and that is have “the talk.” I know, parents have been putting it off because it can be embarrassing. Who wants to discuss such potentially intimate details with their teenagers? Besides, you’re pretty sure the school counselors have covered the topic so there’s no point in having to suffer through the rolling eyes and general awkwardness if you don’t have to.
Well, I’m telling you right now that you have to because “the talk” I’m referring to isn’t the “birds and the bees” but something just as important, “The College Money Talk.”
In case you haven’t heard, some colleges are more likely to provide you institutional scholarships and grants than others. Some are more generous with merit aid while others give better need-based aid. And just as some colleges are known for their aid, there are those that are known for the lack of it and shouldn’t be found anywhere near a list of affordable colleges. In this post, I’m listing 20 colleges that you should avoid if you’re looking for significant help in cutting the cost of college.
One third of colleges do not offer athletic scholarships. At institutions that do offer scholarships, most sports are equivalency sports meaning that athletes are likely to receive only partial scholarships. This means that the availability of non-athletic financial aid is an important consideration for most college athletes.
In a previous post, I defined Expected Family Contribution (EFC), how it works theoretically, and what happens in the real world. For many families, the difference between theory and practice is irrelevant since their EFC is much higher than their actual ability to pay. There are steps that you can take to reduce your EFC, and you should definitely do so if you have the opportunity. However, the fact is that you’re likely to do more to cut the cost of college by targeting the right schools for merit scholarships than by trying to rearrange your finances.
To start your college search, you need to be able to answer this question. If you’re like most parents starting the college search process, you don’t have a clue what EFC means. In fact, most parents don’t understand until they are well into the college application process which is not a good thing.
So what is EFC? EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and is the term used by the Federal Government and colleges to state how much parents are expected to pay for their child’s college education.
Probably the biggest shock families experience as they consider their college options is finding out how much they’re expected to pay for college. But I think a close second would be how few colleges are actually able to meet the family’s admittedly flawed calculated need. According to CollegeData.com, only 80 colleges and universities claim to meet 100% of a student’s financial need.
If a family is able to show financial need, good luck in finding a school that will actually cover it.