Over half of all college students attend schools less than 100 miles from home. Only 16% of students travel 500 or more miles from home. This pretty much matches the preferences expressed by far too many parents and students of wanting to be close enough for them to come home on the weekends if they want to or in case of emergencies. Yeah, I have a problem with that.
Before parents sit back and let their kids drive the college application process, there are some numbers they need to understand when comparing colleges. Because while it’s true that it’s the student who is going to attend college, the colleges are pretty clear that they are going to turn to the parents to pay the bill. And anyone expected to write a check to cover the cost of college, needs to have some meaningful numbers to evaluate the value of what their buying. However, not all numbers are created equal. For example, the acceleration speed of a car and its sticker price are both numbers, but one probably will have priority over the other for most people making a car purchase. Understanding these five numbers will provide you with some basic references for comparing colleges to decide if you’re willing to pay the college’s asking price.
After diligently reporting their families’ financial information as accurately as possible in the FAFSA under the threat of a $20,000 fine and/or prison, high school seniors are anxiously waiting to receive their financial aid award letters. Now, even though each student’s family situation is different, applicants all completed a standard form for financial aid. Major financial factors such as loss of job or health issues have to be addressed in a separate letter to the financial aid office.
So why will the student probably receive financial aid award letters in as many formats as colleges applied to and often designed to deliberately mislead families on how much money they will have to pay?
If you have kids old enough for you to be thinking about the college admissions process and how you’ll pay for it, you also need to be thinking about how you’re going to compare colleges. Because the fact is that you’re going to be comparing lots of colleges, the sooner the better. You’re going to compare colleges when you decide which colleges to visit, which admissions reps to talk to at the college fair, which colleges to apply to, and which one to ultimately attend. So take this opportunity to consider the various ways you can actually compare colleges and their relative worth to your family’s situation.
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.
What are College Scholarships?
What are the Scholarship Types?
How do students apply for scholarships?
When can students apply for portable scholarships?
How long do scholarships last?
How do students receive the scholarship money?
What can you spend scholarship money on?
Let’s start with the definition, scholarships are simply free money for students to spend on their education. This basic definition includes scholarships awarded for pre-schools, dance classes, camps, and, of course, colleges. When you start asking what are scholarships in terms of paying for college, things don’t seem as simple any more. Now you have athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, and other various merit scholarships. And scholarships are just one kind of financial aid available for college so you probably need to have some understanding of how it differs from grants, loans, and work-study. However, even as you wade through various definitions, essentially a scholarship is free money for students to spend on their education.
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(Updated for 2022) 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.
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.
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 (with changes to financial aid, soon to become the Student Aid Index) 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.