It’s great fun going to a suspense flick and gripping your arm rests during the plot’s twists and turns. You want that kind of high anxiety when you watch a movie mystery. But most parents would prefer less drama when they watch the financial aid process unfold. In fact, savvy parents can save themselves much of the apprehension, worry and angst of the financial aid process by learning the truths behind the commonly-held assumptions:
“My child will get some type of merit scholarship.”
Spoiler: According to a survey by the Wall Street Journal, 92 percent of financial aid counselors say parents overestimate the availability of scholarship money. Only 1 percent of college students receive merit scholarships based on their SAT scores.
“My child will borrow the amount needed through low interest government loans.”
Spoiler: The federal government actually caps the amount undergraduates can borrow over four years to $27,000. The current interest rate for an unsubsidized Stafford Loan is 5.045%.
“Financial aid is only loan money.”
Spoiler: Between 60 to 70 percent of all financial aid packages may be free money in scholarships that don’t have to be repaid.
“We will get no financial aid.”
Spoiler: About 35 percent of parents incorrectly assume they will not get financial aid; 70% of those parents assumed incorrectly.
“With two children in college, we will have to pay twice the amount.”
Spoiler: The federal Financial Aid formula calculates the expected family contribution for the year, whether one child is enrolled in college or triplets are. That contribution is per year, not per child.
So, when it comes to financial aid, if you want less dramatic plot twists (and ultimately more money in your pocket), go behind the scenes and get the information you need. That way, there won’t be any plot surprises or spoiler
There are three types of college bound seniors. There are those who are anxious about applying and want the whole process to be over as quickly as possible. The next group wants to spend more time exploring their options and the last group parents feel they care more about their child going to college than the child does. Clearly the first group would be excellent candidates for an early admission application. The two other groups would be better candidates for regular admission.
An early admission application can't be quickly thrown together to get the process over with. The application and the college budget need to be well planned. This takes work on the parents behalf as well as the students. There are some similarities between early action and early decision. Both require applications to be submitted around November 1st and the notification date is typically around December 15th. Generally only private schools offer early application. State colleges and Universities are on a rolling admissions cycle. Financial aid forms (CSS Profile and FAFSA) must be filled out by November 15th for early decision applications and award packages are send out in writing the first two weeks of January. Early action aid form deadlines follow the regular decision time frame. Early decision is a binding application and the student is required to attend if accepted. If accepted the student is mandated to withdraw all other college applications that have been submitted. Early action is non-binding and the student applicant has until May 1st to decide. Financial aid packages will be mailed for the early action student by April 1st so there is time to appeal the package before committing May 1st.
Every college in the country will accept the SAT or ACT scores. There are now many colleges that are test optional. However, 75% of the student applicants choose to send their scores to those colleges. The major differences are too lengthy to outline here, so here's a quiz that your child can take to help sort out the best test for him or her. If your child mostly agrees to the statements, the SAT may be a match; conversely if your child mostly disagrees then the ACT may be the right match. If the quiz results are balanced equally, then either test will be suitable.
College Planning Services helps families maximize their options to help their child get accepted to their dream college while at the same time helping them maximize their free scholarship money. Please click here to set up your free phone consultation with John DeLorey.
Many tier 2 and 3 colleges will accept as many as 80% of the students who apply. Students meeting certain criteria (SAT scores and GPA) will be eligible for merit scholarship money on a first come, first served basis. If a student is willing to commit to the school with a cash deposit they have more leverage if they appeal their package to the college. A word of caution - the financial aid counselors do not react well if they feel that they are being treated like a car salesman. Colleges don't negotiate price with families,
College Planning Services not only helps students with a list of potential colleges but also has been successful in helping the parents appeal their packages in a professional way. Please click here to set up your free phone consultation with John DeLorey.
When picking a car, consumers know exactly how much they have to pay because of the federally required disclosures on window stickers. Yet no Federal or State policies require consistent information, terminology or formatting on financial aid award letters. A new car costs, on average, about $33,000. A college education costs tens of thousands of dollars more and is an investment that should last a lifetime. Surely college bound families need clarity around college costs as much as they do car pricing.
College Planning Services explains to parents how to read a financial aid award and we help families qualify for a minimum of $25,000 in free scholarship money. Click here for a free phone consultation to start saving now.
There are two government loans for college -- the Direct Stafford Loan for students and the Plus Loan for parents -- both interest rates are going up for the 2018-2019 school year. The student loan rate will increase on July 1st to 5.1% for the 2018-2019 academic year. This is up from 4.45% last year. The student is limited to borrowing $5,500 freshaman year and will have to pay a 1% origination fee to borrow the money. This increase means your child would pay $300 more in interest over a ten year period. The loan repayment starts six months after graduation or upon leaving school. The government loans are fixed rate loans; however each year you will have to get a new loan and each year the government releases a new interest rate.
Parents can borrow up to the cost of education for that school year, the interest rate will be 7.7% up from 7% and the origination fee will be 4.4% and payments start immediately. Credible.com has a handy loan cruncher that will provide you with a clear breakdown on how much you will pay back for the principle and interest.
Tidbit: All the interest paid on the student and parent loans help to offset the cost of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
College Planning Services helps families minimize their need to borrow by helping them qualify for free scholarship money from the college of their choice. Please click here to request a free telephone consultation with John DeLorey.
Very few families are excited when they receive their financial aid packages and far too many are confused with the jargon and how to interpret what the aid package says. The first thing that comes to a parent’s mind is “this can’t be right, the college can’t expect me to pay this much.”
The financial aid package is a direct result of completing the complicated financial aid forms and the colleges applying their financial aid policies to your “college tax.” It is not unusual to see Boston University giving a family $10,000 more in free scholarship money than say Northeastern. The reason is that Boston University’s financial aid policies are more generous to those families who exhibit financial need than Northeastern’s.
What happens if this family wants to appeal their package from Northeastern? Most parents’ first inclination is to call Northeastern touting the Boston University package and asking for more money. This is not a good idea for a number of reasons; the primary one being the parent is treating the financial aid counselor at Northeastern as they would a used car salesman. The chances of that appeal strategy netting them more money is minimal.
If a parent wants a fighting chance to get more money from a college on an appeal, they need to do three things. The first is to resell their child, not to Admissions, but to the Financial Aid office, so they will know that if they do “budge,” the student will attend their school. The second thing is to do the math to determine the amount of unmet need. As in the example of the family at Northeastern it is $10,000. The third thing is to determine what the colleges don’t know about their particular family situation. The only thing a college knows about a family is what they put on their financial aid form, verified by their taxes. There could be a number of extenuating circumstances that the college would not be privy to, such as a loss of income, care for an elderly parent, etc.
Don't let stress invade your college decision-making process. This is the time of year when students are thinking, stressing and ultimately making their college choice. Most colleges have May 1 as their deadline for making a decision.
When it comes time to choose the college, cost, location and programs tend to be areas of major focus. Committing to a college requires reanalyzing your priorities. This will assist in determining which college will be the right choice personally and financially.
Finances should be a major part of the decision making process.
Some parents decide to appeal their package, especially if there are wide discrepancies between schools. Michael Stridel, the director of undergraduate admission at Carnegie Mellon University, stated that “his school sets aside slightly under $1 million a year of freshman aid allocation” to be used for renegotiation. Parents need to tell the schools something that they do not know in order to be successful in the renegotiation process, such as a change as a change in job or family medical condition. Also, it is risky to send a copy of another school’s financial aid package for comparison, as that could backfire.
Another important last step is to revisit the student’s college of choice, its campus and its student life. Feel free to talk with a professor in the desired field of study, have lunch with the students and arrange for an overnight stay if it is an option.
Lastly, don’t let the college decision cause short-term satisfaction with long-term repercussions. The repayment for college is typically spread over 15 years after graduation. The federal government limits the amount an undergraduate can borrow to $27,000 over four years. The amount borrowed should not exceed the expected first year salary of the student.
The importance of a well-thought-out financial plan is vital and should be included as part of the overall plan and decision. When making this life decision, do so intelligently and informed. Remember to consider the plan, the goals and the future results.
The dilemma faced by many parents this time of year is where will their child be going to college next September. What the majority don’t realize, the problem is not getting a child into college, it is getting them out in four years.
Many parents find themselves in a love and/or guilt position for a variety of reasons such as they (parents) did not go to college, or they went to an Ivy League school, or they told their child to do well and then they compounded the problem with no clear decision making strategy in advance. This results in a struggle of wills – the child against the parents, the mother and the child ganging up on the father, etc. In the United States only 50% of college freshmen will graduate from college. One of the reasons is how families make their decision sitting at the kitchen table.
Let’s discuss a well-thought-out plan. When a child gets accepted to a number of colleges it is wise to take a “victory lap” to the top 3 schools. I recommend that families have a written rating scale to be able to assess one school versus another. This follows the adage of if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
If possible, the student should schedule a mid-week overnight visit that would allow them to attend several school classes and events. If that is not possible, then extended time should be spent on campus talking to students and faculty members, as well as exploring student clubs and organizations. The cafeteria should merit lots of consideration. Flexibility in the food plan is critical to good nutrition. Many college freshmen put on 15 to 20 lbs because of the glut of junk food, lack of exercise and stress.
It goes without saying that college retention rates (the number of students that return for their sophomore year), graduation rates (4.5 or 6 years), and job placement numbers are all very important. Lastly, cost should be critical in your decision making. It is prudent not to look at how the tuition bill will be paid for just the next year, rather the cost should be viewed as a monthly bill over 15 years.