Determining how to pay for college, all post-high school education programs is critical. Savings, scholarships, need-based aid, and other tuition assistance all play a role in determining how to meet educational costs. Financial aid is available to help supplement a family’s ability to meet the cost of attending a four-year, two-year community college, trade and professional school, full-time or part-time.
October marks the start of the application filing period and the completion of the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). This vital process is part of determining a family’s eligibility for need-based financial aid, including grants, loans, work-study, and many private scholarships.
Complete the form, hit submit, and the FAFSA® process calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an amount of money estimated that a family could contribute to the cost of college.
Cost of Education minus Expected Family Contribution = Demonstrated Financial Need
Many families may feel that the EFC does not represent their ability to finance the cost of college, financial resources available. For many, it does help illustrate the initial cost to a family and is an essential step in finding an affordable educational path after high school.
Affordable College Choice
As illustrated below, three schools with different or similar costs offer varying tuition assistance packages, including scholarships and need-based financial aid. The EFC remains the same; however, the final net price may be different.
It’s essential to consider a range of college options. Each will evaluate a student’s interest and potential compared to their enrollment needs. If interested will offer their investment of tuition assistance in the hopes, a family will select them. The broader the range, the greater the options.
Determining affordability begins with filing the FAFSA
Download the FAFSA Checklist
FINDING THE RIGHT EDUCATION TO CAREER CHOICE
The Fall has arrived, school is in full gear, and student activities are filling up the house calendar. It is the time for college planning. Parents of high school juniors and seniors begin the countless hours of managing their student’s journey of selecting the education to career path after high school. Stressful and overwhelming for many, especially for first-time families. Here are some thoughts that might help with the experience:
Create a college plan – dream location, academic, and personal fit, cost, budget, and affordability are just a few of the many areas of the plan. Financing, expectations, goals, and capabilities are fundamental to finding the right college choice.
Turn to resources – schedule and meet with your School Counselor – their role, expertise, and knowledge are valuable parts in determining options and how they will assist through ongoing one-to-one counseling and coaching meetings.
What’s expected – understand the rules, deadlines, admissions requirements, financial aid eligibility, and everything in between. How does a 4-year school differ from a 2-year, community college, or technical school? Be a sponge asking questions and inquiring why.
Learn about college cost – education after high school should be considered an investment. It is critical to understand how college costs differ, private ($56,000) versus public ($29,000), in-state, out-of-state, and what it means to a graduating student’s ROI.
Cast a broad search of potential schools that match a student’s profile and aspirations. Draw on academic strengths, talent (athletic and performing arts), and personal desires to create a list of schools that challenge your student. Use online resources to build a list of college options that can be evaluated by visiting campuses, speaking with admission representatives, and learning about possibilities.
Seek out financial aid – should I apply, make too much money, I’ll never qualify are myths and misunderstandings—everyone tuition assistance, including the possibility of need-based financial aid. Designed to help supplement a family’s ability to meet college costs, need-based financial aid, when added to savings, scholarships, and other resources can lessen the financial burden. But one will never know until they complete and file the FAFSA – Free Application for Student Aid
Finally, communication is vital – as the parent of four and worked with countless other parents; communication is the key to finding the right education to career choice. Everyone involved needs to be on the same page, understanding expectations, deadlines, tasks, and the PLAN.
Download your free College Planning Overview and get a start on finding the right education match after high school!
Over the past few months, I have been reading, updating information, and talking to parents and higher education colleagues. I must confess I am concerned. It appears we are on the doorsteps of another year of College Planning Paralysis (CPP). Coined by Shelley Honeycutt, founder of Pivotal College Years, College Planning Paralysis is a syndrome affecting families of high school and college-aged students. It is discouraging to speak with and learn of the sheer number of parents suffering from CPP.
College Planning Paralysis
Most family’s experience a mild case of College Planning Paralysis (CPP), missing a few deadlines, a campus visit, or a task that generally doesn’t cause an issue. Schools are selected, applications submitted (admission and financial aid), and students ultimately enroll. But in other cases, CPP can throw households into a tailspin. Relationships become tested and the mental and physical well-being of the family. Stress, fatigue, anxiety, and panic become part of one’s daily life. CPP can disrupt school and work performance. CPP plays out in many ways, including:
- Decisions made on emotions, not based on realistic goals
- Financing strategies that turn into excessive debt due to borrowing
- Post-high school goals derailed due to attitude and lack of motivation
- Enrolling in college because everyone is going
Tips to Avoid College Planning Paralysis
- Start now – as a family, map out the post-high school goals and needs
- Conduct an honest review of financial and academic capabilities
- Draw up an individualized plan to follow; make life easier at home, school, and work
- Include a checklist to meet deadlines and manage everyday tasks
- Ignore external distractions that can derail wise personal choices
- Learn your price point. What can you afford, annually and 4-years?
- Learn the terminology – Expected Family Contribution, Net Price, Cost of Attendance, Selectivity
- Look beyond the rankings and consider unknown schools when building a college list
- Don’t be afraid to stop, ask questions, and seek guidance
As I mentioned in a previous post, the pandemic has changed the game. So STOP the College Planning Paralysis and get moving today. Understand the rules and processes of admissions and financial aid and how decisions can affect family budgets, long-term debt, and sound education choices.
CALM THE WATERS – Are you feeling anxious? Have questions? As a parent of four working college graduates, having spent my career in college and high school enrollment (admissions and financial aid) and marketing positions, I understand the complexity of college planning. I welcome the chance to provide clarity and insights to your questions. Feel free to reach me by text or telephone at 617-240-7350 or email at email@example.com.
Love July …. Although we have had a few warm days already, you have to love July. Time to kick back, grab some vacation time, walk the beach, or sit poolside. For families of high school and college-aged students, the summer offers no rest from the critical tasks and activities associated with post-high school and college-related activities.
Top Nine Summer Tasks Not to Miss
1 – Learn the Admissions and Financial Aid Process – whether your oldest and first or fourth like me, learn the rules, terminology, and your parent of four like me. The pandemic changed the landscape, but it is coming back fast; rules, and processes
2 – Map Out the Timeline – digitalize the checklist of activities, tasks, responsibilities within the household – keep everyone accountable; it’s not just mom’s job!
3 – Don’t Waste the Junior to Senior Summer – colleges are open for businesses, sign up, and attend tours. Get out on the road. Investigate, explore, ask questions and learn.
4 – Raising Your Hand – register, text, email, and call. Let your schools know you are interested in them. The college hasn’t had time to find you!
5- Start the Essay and Common Application – senior year will be hectic – start now!!
6 – Gap Year – if you were one of the many students who elected to delay entering college this year, make it a good year. But read the fine print. Be cautious. Each school has its own rules and policies regarding deferring, taking a semester or year off. Contact your school and learn the rules!
7 – Keep the Pedal Down on Scholarships – Every dollar earned is a dollar not borrowed.
8 – Be Independent – learn to drive, volunteer, talk to college students, get a job, stay active – middle, high school, or college-age, pick one and join your community.
9 – Increasing Tuition Assistance – two important factors guide this, your student, and the needs of a college. Understanding the dynamics of a school and why they award scholarships, need-based aid, tuition discounts, and other resources is key. Not the two programs administered by the Feds or even your state and local providers. Moving this and moving that, prior to understanding the college-student matching game can lead to unwise changes.
Social Media – love it or hate it, it’s part of our framework and many daily lives. For colleges and universities, it is another item on their admission checklist – post offer to attend. Right now, many institutions across the county are examining Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter pages of their incoming class of 2021. They are reviewing social media pages to ensure that individuals who have accepted an offer to attend have not crossed the social media line. I advise all of my families to be cautious. Don’t let eighteen years of building a solid image and personal character get tainted by one social media post.
Remember – No Planning is Poor Planning
CALMING THE WATERS – Are you feeling anxious? Have questions? As a parent of four, I understand the complexing of planning a student’s journey after high school. If you’re looking for clarity and insights to your questions reach out. . No Pitch!
Find us, follow up and learn more at https://linktr.ee/getcollegegoing – 617-240-7350 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not ready for an adviser in your life, consider the online college planning portal Pivotal College Years. A low-cost, robust subscription resource center at the click of a mouse or palm your hand. EVERYTHING college before, during, and after, in one place.- College Planning Portal for Families
Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2021
To the students and the parents of the graduating class of 2021, wow. kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, college, graduate school. Wow. In all of my 35+ years in education, never has there been a year. Congratulation!
Now, no sliding during the summer. Put your relentless determination, newfound savviness, and ability to pivot to work, and take your next step. Parents and students use the month of June to recharge and refuel but do not let up on the gas.
Whether your classroom is moving up, changing schools, grade level, pursuing graduate school, internship, apprenticeship, licensing, or joining the workforce, take the bull by the horns (little ones not a good idea) and champion forward. We are here to help and have your back!!
Summer Doesn’t Take a Break
The pandemic has changed the college admission and financial aid landscape for the foreseeable future. If you’re a rising senior you have time and opportunity. This summer is going to be key to recovering and taking advantage of missed opportunities. The campus is opening for tours, information sessions, and meeting with college admissions and financial aid departments. Learn, explore, ask questions, and prep for the Fall. Need answers and insight – call us, schedule an appointment. We do not pitch until you say help!
Still, Thinking About College?
Opportunities await even now for September 2021 enrollment. The pandemic caused many students and families to pause during the school year to question what’s next—a good pause for many. This past year, we have learned a lot, including that we need to celebrate and support multiple pathways education and careers.
If you are now ready to go in September, over 150 colleges, universities, and Community Colleges in MA and New England are waiting to hear from you. If an internship, apprenticeship, licensing program, or skilled professional program suits you, then go for it. Turn to your resources at NSCC, NECC, No Shore Career Center, and the vast network that makes up the Route One BNG family.
Preparing to Pay – September College Tuition Bill
It will be in the mailbox, your student’s email or the college portal, the September tuition bill. Arriving as early as July, the bill, once resolved, is the pathway to key swipe card) for dorm rooms, access to the dining halls, and campus life activities. Yes, academic classes too. Finalizing financing options should be done sooner than later. Investigate all options, including a school’s Monthly Payment Plan, use of savings (529 plans), scholarships, and personal financing resources (home equity). If, in the end, a private education loan is the only option, borrow conservatively, and remember, a loan must be repaid.
No Break from Campus Tours
Parents of high school sophomores and juniors, no, no. The pandemic has left many slightly behind or not even engaged. In-person campus tours, information sessions, and 1-1 interviews are back! Students and families will need to map their thoughts on where to visit by the strength of the college list, who’s hot or not. The pandemic has changed the rules, many that will continue into the 2021-2022 college year. Don’t lose the benefits of the summer months!
Repaying Education Loan and Employee Assistance Programs
Changes during the pandemic placed a hold on the repayment of Federal Student Loans, which tentatively ends on September 30, 2021. It is unclear what, if anything, the Administration or Congress will do, but those whose loans were frozen should begin to factor the return of their monthly payment into the budget. Education loan refinancing and modified repayment may be an option if there is a continued financial strain on the family budget.
The use of employer-sponsored education reimbursement benefits also experienced changes with the introduction of expanded services—benefits, including assisting with education loan debt.
Power of Saving
Financial aid is available for those who qualify—a classic statement used by colleges and universities and many who advise students and families. However, saving is king. Every dollar saved strengthens a student and family’s access to college. Setting aside as much as possible through a broader range of education savings programs will increase access to a wide range of college options. Parents, grandparents, and relatives can also participate in the college savings game. Connect with one of the many financial service experts in the Route One BNG family for additional guidance and assistance.
Consult an Independent College Counselor
Need help with the checklist, calming the waters, getting started, or just answering questions. An experienced independent college counselor can help parents guide their students. They listen, focus on needs and expectations, and help manage realistic and holistic college planning. Plus, you’ll get the peace of mind that a professional is on the team 100% of the time.
Tom O’Hare is the Founder of Get College Going, a North Shore-based full-service college counseling practice. TOur goal is to help family’s find the right education, for the right reason, at the right school for the right investment—resources before, during, and after college.
Schedule a free consultation or obtain your free Comprehensive College Guide at www.getcollegegoing.com –
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September is right around the corner. Please take a minute to protect your new college student and their family. Negotiating the deposit, reserving the dorm room, and calculating financing of the remaining balance are all top of mind for new and returning college-bound students.
As students transition from high school to college, many will be turning 18 years of age —a milestone in their lives and a new designation in the eyes of colleges and universities, adults.
Our children will always remain young at heart, but when they turn 18 years of age, the rules change, especially in the eyes of the medical and legal system. An eighteen-year-old becomes responsible for their own medical and legal care as well as other consumer actions. As students move onto college campuses, travel to and from, and begin to live independently of their parents, legal and medical documentation is need for parents to remain part of the conversation.
Four documents needed before a student settles in this September are:
- FERPER Agreement – signed by the student and parent(s) annually; this document permits school administrators to speak with parents for student needs associated with academic, housing, campus life infractions, and public safety, and more.
- HIPAA Authorization Form – allows a physician to speak with a parent regarding a student’s medical condition.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – beyond a HIPAA Agreement, if a student cannot communicate due to temporary incapacitation, a parent would need a Healthcare power of attorney to act on behalf of the student.
- General Durable Power of Attorney – acting on behalf of a loved one to manage their finances, pay bills, and assist in matters beyond healthcare.
For parents caring for those parents, the elderly, these last three documents are standard but hold an equally important place in the lives of college-age students.
Check with your Family Law Attorney to learn more on how to obtain these vital documents.
In addition, immunization records must be current, including all vaccinations and now COVID-19 for the Fall. Check with the college to determine if they have a specific form that a student’s primary care doctor must complete before arriving on campus. Medical records take time, don’t wait.
Up-to-date passports (study abroad), car. property, and liability insurance policies should all be reviewed to protect students and their families.
Finally, as I did with my four college-age children, I encourage all parents to have a frank and honest conversation about drinking, drugs, and sex. There is no denying it. On average, over 1800 freshmen nationally dies within the first 180 days of stepping on a college campus due to alcohol-related deaths.
Sending an 18-19-year-old young mind off to college can be like opening up the barn door and letter the horses run free. Help your college-age student have a safe and successful college career.
For more information on these and other college planning needs, please feel free to contact me, Tom O’Hare at Get College Going