Ways to Fund (Pay) For College

The average amount a family can anticipate spending for one year of the post-secondary cost will range from $15K (public), $25K (private), and $30K (for-profit trade school). Keep in mind that four key variables can affect the range:

  • The family’s overall financial profile
  • Household size
  • Demonstrated financial aid need, if any, and
  • A college’s interest in the student (recruitment) and if they will discount the cost, OR

Keep in mind selecting an alternative education to career pathway that meets a student goals can result in a reduction in cost and time.

  • Enrolling in a Community College
  • Utilizing a 2+2 degree completion pathway
  • Enrolling in work and learn apprenticeship program (IBEW, Teamsters)
  • Employment with OJT

Why Is the Current Approach Wrong?

80% of families unfortunately look, select, and then consider how to pay. For many this approach can result in unforeseen debt, excessive borrowing, strained family budgets, and ultimately the wrong pathway to a successful career.

I have written before, to some claims (that I’m preaching) that families of college-bound students need to apply a different process. An approach that first calculates the anticipated spend (budget), then turns to the purchase (shopping). The exercise assesses a family’s funding capabilities, including accumulated savings, dependency on financial aid, and potential scholarship eligibility. What’s left is net costs (the expense) for one or more schools in the running. If borrowing is necessary, does the ability exists, and what is the debt tolerance? The result does not limit the search and evaluation of school options but strengthens the selection of affordable schools that meet a student’s authentic academic and personal profile.

Financing September’s Enrollment

Congratulations, May 1st, College Decision Day is in the rearview mirror; the school choice has been made for September. Orientation, the Summer Checklist, and moving in is left. Oh, Ya, let us not forget that a bill will be coming, and the balance will need to be resolved before access to dorms, dining halls, and classrooms will be granted.

Four financing vehicles

1 – Lump Sum Payment – using accumulated savings, investments, or available insurance programs, reduce the education bill by semester or for the whole year.

2 – Monthly Tuition Payment Plan – using disposal monthly resources spread payments over ten months. Perfect for families with rental income or previous expenses like a car payment, high school sports, or dance expenses. Work with the school’s Student Account Office and plan administrator.

3 – Borrowing – using credit-based home equity and private education loan programs are available to credit-worthy borrowers. A co-signer is generally needed, interest rates have a range, and repayment can begin during the in-school period or be deferred until graduation or early separation. A family can finance a portion or all of the remaining balance due to the school.

4 – Wildcards – vary based on a student’s high school resume, the family financial profile, and school selection. Hunting for scholarships, student employment, chatting with relatives, and following the classic Oliver Twists ask, “Please can I have some more,” should be pursued throughout the summer and after school starts.

Note: programs can be used separately or combined. The first bill will be in the mail on or before July 1.

College planning begins with understanding financing capabilities (budget), then continues with shopping and evaluating options, and culminates in wise financial, academic, personal, and career-focused selection.

It all starts now; you need help calming the waters, getting started, or addressing technical questions before, during, or after college; everything begins with a conversation. Whether living with a pre-teen, on doors steps of 11th grade, scrambling, or questioning post-high school options, consider adding resources to your team.

Start a conversation today – 617-240-7350 or learn more about the Tom O’Hare at getcollegegoing.com

Rethinking the Approach

Recently I spoke with an employee group as part of an educational enrichment program attended by parents of high school and college-age students. We talk about the classic nuts and bolts, managing deadlines, scheduling campus visits, the application processes, and how to pay for college. All are part of the responsibilities parents must oversee as they navigate selecting their students (families) right education pathway after high school.

As the meeting started to break up, a few parents voiced their frustration, some even saying they might have a better chance throwing a lucky penny into a fountain than getting their kids into school and being able to afford it. I looked at the session organizer and asked if we could extend the lunch and learn for those who wanted to continue.

For the next twenty minutes, we discussed the importance of planning, with a twist – it’s time to understand and recognize the wild vortexes families can get drawn into, willingly and unknowingly – why – because we allow ourselves. Parents must rethink their approach to education, work, and careers after high school by first accepting that the system has created some significant pitfalls.

Six Vortexes To Avoid  

  • Emotions – we hope we follow a natural thought process. Still, once our son or daughter gets their hope up, it becomes emotionally driven, and things like the right choice and our financing capabilities get thrown out the window.
  • Financing Realities – after purchasing a home, investing in college is the most expensive life change event in a family’s life. So why do educators, financial planners, and other advisers position families to focus on paying for college incorrectly? Knowing if we can afford the cost is paramount to how we help our students find their authentic education path in high school. Financing first – shopping for the beautiful campus is second.
  • Vanity and Prestige – for some psychological reason, we worry about what our neighbors, relatives, and friends think about the choices we hope our students (family) will make. Are they paying the bill? Are they losing sleep over the agonizing process? Do they really know your student – truly. Or is it some misguided reality game we are allowing ourselves to be playing? Why?
  • First Generation – like having a child (I have four), first-time high school and college-age families have questions and need help. Even if you are a veteran college parent, without practical and experienced-based guidance, you can get overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. Always ask why? How come, and can you help me? Knowledge is power!
  • Poor Communication – there is a massive gap in the flow of information. School systems expect students to communicate vital information to their parents – NOT! Parents with questions or inquiries must seek answers, not wait for meetings. Living in the dark is another primary source of stress and anxiety.
  • Peer Pressure – what 17-year-old will raise their hand and proclaim, no, I’m not following the herd; I’m going to do my way? Education to career planning post-high school is no longer a one-fits-all process. Helping students step out of social media’s shadows and peer pressure to find their authentic self takes courage. Celebrate the student-athlete, the skilled trade professional, the academic dancer, and the community college learner on the same level.

Starting Point – Just One

  • Goals and Expectations – if you are a parent of a high school student and have not discussed four critical topics, then get at it – start helping them shape their future – ask:
    1. What are your strengths, skills, and experiences – in and out of school
    2. Who do you balance a checkbook, calculate compounding interest and be financially literate
    3. What are you interested in, values, hobbies, ideas, and the occasional job, and
    4. What do they like their life to look like? What hopes, dreams, and lifestyle preferences

We ended the intense and highly energetic session with the need to keep talking. Everyone had to go back to work. I shared my number – the office door is always open.

A reminder – this is an emotional process with many peaks and valleys for their students and themselves. And yes (I beat a dead horse), proper planning and asking (not waiting) for guidance, advice, and help will make the journey much more enjoyable.

Ben Franklin once said, “Failing to prepare is planning to fail” The college search, selection, and payment process can be a long, sometimes consuming experience. Understanding the twist and turns, rules of the road, and how they apply to you and your students are crucial to surviving the journey. Need help with your plan? Schedule a free consultation to learn how we are helping students and parents. Text or call 617-240-7350 or email tom@getcollegegoing.com. Learn more at www.getcollegegoing.com

Our four pillars at Get College Going: find the right education pathway, for the right reason, at the right school, at an affordable cost

December Blessings

December is one of the most exciting yet emotional times for families of high school and college-age students. It is the month when 12th-grade students anxiously await news on their college applications and choices for September 2023. First-year college students return home having experienced the college grading system and the reality of being independent. For 9-11th grade and younger, it’s about the start of winter sports, Christmas concerts, dancing in the Nutcracker, and the anticipation of Santa.

Parents, you continue to juggle work-home responsibilities, tweaking the transportation schedule, finishing Santa’s list, and looking forward to 2023.

It is a magical time of the year.


Preparing for Guest
During the holiday, questions arise from visitors that can increase stress levels. Good-hearted aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends will ask, have you heard yet? OR, Did you apply where I went? OR even more piercing, have you started your college search yet? Help your students be ready. If an acceptance has arrived, even if it is not the dream school, hang it on the frig. If the process has yet to end, coach your student to smile and promise to send an update. Announcements are arriving, and more are to come from Admissions and Financial Aid. Comparing offers is next and saying yes to the college is right around the corner.

Adjusting to Winter Break
Disruption, late nights, yes, our college students have returned for winter break. Students return from college ready to eat, sleep and hang out. Ask them about their roommates, grades, and the Fall semester; it could be silence, joy, or tears. Be ready for it all. Be patient in responding and, if needed, consider what alternative plans might be made if returning to college is not in the cards. Plus – tips for students adjusting!

Talk with Your Financial Coach
As the year ends, it is essential to discuss your financial house. You check your vitals at the doctor’s office, and winterize your car. Families of high school college-bound students and those already enrolled should not miss the chance to conduct a year-ending financial wellness check up. Do you know if you will have the resources to pay for college, a post-secondary financing need?  that dream college. Talk to your Tax Preparer, Financial Planner, or CPA. If you run your own business, are considering a divorce or have multiple students bound for college, financial aid rules are changes. Learn your families financial readiness and capabilities. Once you know where your family stands, we can help you find the right education, for the right reason, at the right school at an affordable investment!

Hats off to Melrosekind
Recently I presented at the Melrose Parent University, a great morning full of informational and educational sessions sponsored by the Melrose Education Foundation. I had the pleasure of meeting the coordinators of the wonderful community-based group Melrosekind. They are on a mission to foster the art of sharing kindness. In this season of giving and celebration, I encourage everyone to follow their slogan – tag your it.

CALMING THE WATERS – Have questions? Feeling paralyzed, Everything Starts with a Conversation – Learn more at www.getcollegegoing.com


Thank You

I am blessed and give thanks every day but especially during this month of thanksgiving.  As a parent of four and a career college guy, I understand the thought of what to do after high school can be daunting, overwhelming, and often an emotional roller-coaster. I am thankful to be welcomed into the homes of high school families to share some expertise and bring peace of mind before, during, and after college. Equally, I am thankful and privileged when leaders of businesses, associations, and membership organizations turn to me to help provide education and enrichment programming for their employees, clients, and customers.
Please continue to share your text messages, phone calls and emails.

Top of Mind My This Month

 Debt Relief- Loan Forgiveness
The program introduced by the Administration and DOE provides eligible borrowers with financial relief of up to $20,000 to Federal Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 to non-Pell Grant recipients.
Apply today (but no later than December 31, 2023). Use the link https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application

  • Who Qualifies?
    – Individuals who made less than $125,000 in 2021 or 2020**
    – Families that made less than $250,000 in 2021 or 2020**
    ** Adjusted gross income reported on IRS Tax Return

Learn More at DOE Student Aid.gov https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/debt-relief-info

Public Services Loan Forgiveness Program
If employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government, a not-for-profit organization (section 503c), the military, or another recognized organization you maybe eligible for the PSLF Program.. The program provides an opportunity to save time, interest, and financial resources associated with repaying your Federal Direct Loans.
Complete and file the form electronically – work with your Personal Director, HR Manager, or Commanding Officer to obtain the necessary signature. Learn more at https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service#qualify

Every good thing comes with scams – read on to protect yourself from the numerous sounds to be good scammers who are prying on federal and private student loan borrowers, parents, and employers – https://studentaid.gov/resources/scams

Planning is Critical

  1. Your Amazing 12thGrade Students – over the past few months, I have had the privilege to read essays and personal statements of college-bound students – wow! Parents, you have exceptional students in your homes. They are thought leaders, articulate, creative, and write from their hearts. They are not afraid to show their vulnerability. If you have not read (your) student’s essay, take a minute. We are in good hands!
  2. Deadlines – admission application deadlines for many college-bound students have come and gone. It was the early flight of filings, but for many 12th-grade students, including those in my practice, January and February deadlines are perfect. Colleges and universities are waiting to receive applications. Stay on pace, submit the Application, and discover your college choice.
  3. Financial Aid – from colleges and universities, federal and state agencies, and external sources (employers, civic/community/philanthropic organizations) is determined by completing and filing the FAFSA. The 2023-2024 Free Application for Student Aid is available and should be filed ASAP. If you plan to attend school in September of 2023 and hope to receive financial Aid, don’t wait. File today.
    Download your 2023-2024 FAFSA Checklist 
  4. Hunting for Scholarship – don’t wait for the Spring of the senior year to start your search. Hundreds of scholarship deadlines end as early as December. Local, regional, and national programs provided by philanthropic organizations, businesses, and associations await your applications. Time invested is time rewarded. Subscribe to Pivotal College Years to access a free Scholarship Workbook. See below for more information on the online platform.

The HS Class of 2024 and Beyond
October is behind us now. PSAT, the national test to benchmark a student’s academic proficiency, is complete with results due out on December 5th. Unless a student is involved in winter sports or performing arts (dance, theater) families join my private practice after the holidays. If you starting now here are three important first steps:

  • Parents – get a read on your financing capabilities. College is expensive, ranging from $116,000 to $215,000. Such a big-ticket purchase should first begin by creating a financial plan. How much will I need to finance one year + 3? Do I have the financial resources? Have you had the money talk with your 11th and 10th-grade student? How is my creditworthiness if I need to borrow? A simple exercise we call our College Cost Estimator can ping point answers to these questions now to help with peace of mind down the road. Dreaming I can get in and hoping I can pay a recipe for financial trouble.
  • Explore College Options – there are 350+ institutions of higher learning in New England, another 500+from New York down the east coast. Hundreds if you crisscross the county and pop up to Canada.. Start with creating a realistic and broad list of schools, known and unknown. Consider a student’s current  GPA, academic rigor, and personal character adding the chance for a strong pump over the next 6-8 months. Evaluate and investigate your results with a plan to visit beginning in February.
  • Standing Out – plain and simple, 99% of colleges and universities do not know a student is interested in them. They send out glossy brochures and flood the email box after purchasing names but are unaware a student has them on their radar. Students need to gain exposure by demonstrating interest and educating schools as to their academic talents and personal strengths. Following some simple activities and a straightforward communication plan, students can become their best marketers.

Pivotal College Years
If you’re  tired of surfing through millions of websites, check out the college planning platform, Pivotal College Years. Created by experts who are also parents, the e-library offers reference information, instructional videos, checklists, and workbooks. Use PCY30 for a free 30-day trial and to obtain your 2023-2024 FAFSA Checklist and Scholarship Workbook. www.pivotalcollegeyears.com

Reading and Watching

Managing Educational Debt – with all the talk about forgiveness and PSLF, let us not lose sight of the potential value of education loan refinance and the need to make arrangements to repay student loans. The federal loan freeze will be over on December 31; repayment will begin again. What is your plan? Will it be regular payments, the government-offered IDR or ICR, or maybe private loan refinancing? 7 things to do before January 1. Resources, including Pivotal College Years, and our friends at AAA Northeast can help.

CALMING THE WATERS – Gain some knowledge, answer a question, eliminate a myth or misunderstanding – Everything starts with a Conversation – Learn more at www.getcollegegoing.com

Looking for a speaker at your next group meeting, employee enrichment program, or client workshop? A broad range of topics for parents of high school and college-age students and recent college graduates. Live and virtual presentations and Lunch and Learn Q & A sessions.

If you find our newsletter and information helpful, share it within your community and workplace.

Let the Games Begin

Are you rested and ready to get into the game?

Yes, fall sports are in full swing, but I am talking about planning for college.

Time to open up the playbook that will guide a family through the process of finding, selecting, applying, and financing college. September can be a busy month as students and families work to get back into the groove, and if working on the college planning process has been left to now, it’s time to scramble.

This month I’m dedicating my column to sharing information that families in 11th and 12th grades should be working on. Knowledge is power; The more you know, the less worry and stress a household will experience.

Every parent of a 12thgrade student going to college in September of 2023 should be finetuning their college planning checklist, identifying what’s completed, and focusing on what needs to be done in the coming weeks to meet deadlines for admission, scholarship, and financial aid.

  • Budget and Costs – first and foremost, if a conversation about cost and affordability has not occurred, stop and have it! What will it cost, how much will we have to pay, and can we swing it, year one and beyond? Don’t finish the shopping experience without a budget number in mind – we can afford $$ on an annual basis. .
  • Refining college choices – have you done the research, visited campuses, understand the who is a reach, highly probable for acceptance, or a so-called financial safety? What’s our best path – 4-years, community college, skilled training?
  • Essay – is it in draft form or completed? Is it authentic, and will it captivate the reader? Grammar and spell check? A well-written essay can be the differentiator and catalyst for acceptance to college.
  • Common Application – deadlines are approaching, what schools require answers to supplemental questions, when to pull the trigger to file, and should  we will report test scores. Some of the many prep actions to get completed.
  • Scholarships – is the hunt on? Many deadlines, especially national, statewide, and regional scholarships, are in the Fall. Don’t be fooled by the deadlines in the Spring, they usually only cover local awards given out at graduation. Download the Scholarship Workbook at Pivotal College Years to get a jump on the hunt.
  • FAFSA – need-based financial aid is an important part of a family’s financing strategy. Completing and filing the Free Application for Student Aid is mandatory.. Resources from schools, Federal and State agencies, and philanthropic donors (scholarships) require the application. The window opens on October 1st.
  • I’m I Known – most colleges do not know students are interested in them. Students need to be the recruiter, emailing, texting, and setting up a virtual meeting to introduce themselves, and their interests, obtain answers to questions and build relationships is critical. Don’t be shy!
  • Credit Worthiness – Finally if a loan may be needed to finance the gap, the net cost to a family, don’t let one’s credit (co-signer) be a deal breaker. Act now!

Footnote to 12th-grade students not planning on going to college. Your 13th-year plan can also carry deadlines, applications, interviews, and mental and physical preparation (military) are a must as part of planning for the 13th year-you need a plan too. Whether your goal is to attend an apprenticeship to learn a skilled trade, enter the workforce, or serve our country, you too should have a plan.

 11th Grade Checklist

It is not a clique when someone says this is the pivotal year. GPA, grades, academic progression, and demonstrating a commitment to activities in and out of school culminate at the end of the 11th Grade. The first semester of the 12th Grade is a bonus, but the magic happens in 11th Grade.

  • Start Early – time is your enemy if you live with the hectic student and household schedules. The months turn quickly, and the clock even faster. Sports, dance, performing arts, volunteering, academics, and testing can overwhelm a student. Busy schedules can jam up the best of plans. October is the kick-off month with all students subscribing to take the National PSATs. Once test scores are returned, most 11th-grade families get the college planning bug.
  • Building A List – but get it started – every student committed to attending college right after high school must pursue their own goals and aspirations, but with an eye on realistic expectations. Schools to consider will offer opportunities that challenge one academically and foster personal growth; yes, we can afford them! Start with crafting a broad list of colleges and universities based on a student’s high school resume/profile and initial preferences.
    • Footnote: consider substituting academic interest when questioning majors, careers, and jobs when running these early lists. It is less intimidating for a student as many schools allow for the selection of a major after the first year.
  • Need Academic Help – first marks tell the tale. Are grades from early tests on par or missing the mark? If so, consider bringing in an academic coach/tutor to supplement classroom and study skills work. Starting extra help in the 9th and 10th can bring even better results!
  • Get Financially Prepared – understanding college costs and a successful financing strategy is equally important as good grades and a student character. Understanding what one can afford is essential to the college selection equation. Scholarships, grants, and federal loans won’t cover the entire cost of education. The gap may be small or large depending on the type of school, average aid awarded, and resources available from a family. Students and families should create a paying-for-college strategy, including determining their costs before shopping. Sounds like the senior year, maybe – but you have more time.
  • Spring comes quickly – drafting a plan, learning the rules, and deadlines (scholarships, auditions, portfolio reviews), and prepping for when the snow melts will make for a successful experience.

College planning may not be considered exciting or sexy, but as the father of four and advisor to many, if you want to minimize stress and maintain harmony in a household, get a move on. Give us a ring or download a grade-level checklist (they begin for Middle School) at www.getcollegegoing.com Join our e-newsletter community, start a conversation or ask questions. No pitch or hock – just the facts.

Going the DIY path…. that’s OK too – consider subscribing to Pivotal College Years*. Designed as a digital portal, Pivotal offers guidance, tips, downloadable PDF documents, special topic workbooks, and more. Information, and assistance at one URL for families, before, during and after college.  http://www.pivotalcolegeyears.com

Let the game begin!!

* Pivotal College Years is an affiliated partner of Get College Going.



Leave it to Congress, the Administration, and the U.S. Department of Education to once again introduce changes to the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
Note: as we go to press, the DOE has not issued final regulations and guidance, so here is what we know today.

  • Switch in Terminology – moving from the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI). Methodologies are changing, and to the student’s (family) advantage, the result will be a calculation used by all providers to determine need-based aid.
  • Who Files the Application – today, the parent(s) with whom the student lives 51% complete and file the FAFSA. Beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year (as of October 1, 2022), the parent(s) who claims the student as an exemption on their IRS Tax Return will be (new) required to complete the application. There will be no change for two-parent households; however, the change will have significant implications for divorced and separated families.
  • Elimination of the Multiple Children – families with multiple students in college have received a break in their contribution. This provision ends with the 2023-2024 application. However, schools will be allowed to use their discretion to assist families.
  • Untaxed Income – many areas have been redefined or excluded, including cash support and money paid on behalf of a student—the all-important help from grandparents and relatives.
    • Note: Schools that require the CSS Profile will still be looking for this information.
  • Income Protection Allowance – although the multiple children provision is gone, the percentage used to calculate adjustments to income has increased.

The Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) opens live for the 2023-2024 academic year on October 1, 2022. All students and families interested in applying for need-based financial aid awarded by colleges, universities, the federal, state, and even some private scholarship organizations should apply.

Keep in mind that the greatest factor in the determination of a student/family’s eligibility for need-based aid is income. For the 2023-2024 FAFSA the income reported will come from the 2021 IRS Tax Return. Real-time assets and savings play a role, but significantly less. The second is the school!