Starting the college search is a very exciting time and there are many things to consider, including college tuition. The key questions that are probably on your mind are how much will it cost and how will you afford it. Don’t wait until you find a “dream school” to think about this. Here are five things you need to know now to save money.
- Consider starting at a two-year campus. The least expensive tuition can be found at in-state two-year campuses. If you attend close to home and can live at home this can be a great way to save money, assuming your parents don’t mind keeping you around! If you really want to go for a four-year degree, there is always the option to transfer to a four-year school.
- When it comes to public colleges, stick with in-state tuition options. There are prestigious public colleges in other states, but if you are interested in these, be ready to pay high tuition. You may even pay more than you would at a private college, because public schools don’t heavily discount tuition with merit aid.
- Look for private colleges with large merit scholarships. Private colleges are not always more expensive than public colleges. Almost no one pays the full sticker price and that isn’t just considering need-based aid. Many private colleges give out large merit scholarships to lure bright students away from ivy-league and other prestigious schools.
- Get an estimate of your “net price” at various schools. Net price can be very different than sticker price. You may find that some schools are much more affordable than you thought. Most schools have a Net Price Calculator located within the Admissions section of their website. This calculator will use family financial information to provide an early estimate of your net price. Use this estimate loosely, because the real net price can differ. This estimate will give you a starting place to determine a list of potentially affordable schools. The best Net Price Calculators also ask for student grades and test scores and project the merit aid your student will receive.
- Always file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many parents make the mistake of not filing the FAFSA because they assume their income is too high to get any financial aid. This isn’t always true and every school is different. You can’t get any aid if you don’t apply! If the family has more than one child in college at the same time, you will automatically be eligible for more aid. Also, filing the FAFSA is the only way to obtain a federal Stafford loan. Stafford loans tend to have much lower interest rates than private loans.
Wendy Nelson is a first-time college mom who has approached her daughter’s college search process using her professional background in Project Management. She hopes to help others through the college choice process by sharing what she has learned. For more helpful information to guide you in your college choice process visit http://www.mykidscollegechoice.com.
You will find great tools to use in your college search process at http://www.mykidscollegechoice.com/resources.
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