Paying for College – Know Numbers Early!

Education after high school is a critical life event that every student (and their family) need to prepare for and pursue. Planning one’s pathway is based on academic potential, personal interest, and the motivation to attend that begins as early as middle school and culminates at high school graduation. Planning typically centers around setting goals and expectations, talking about majors and school settings, and one’s readiness to follow an educational path after high school.

But there is the elephant in the room.  Students and their parents, many times, search, apply, and even commit to a college or university without understanding the financial implications. Today, the process of purchasing a first-time home, car, or even remolding one’s home requires prequalification. A review of one’s budget, resources, and ability to pay occurs are all part life-changing purchase. The process of prequalifying is to learn what one’s financial gap could be when considering large consumer purchases and how to make wise choices to achieve goals. A process that, to this day, seems to come late in the college shopping experience.

Two Steps to College $$ Prequalification

 Parents of rising Sophomore and Juniors with an eye on college should learn their Expected Family Contribution, the EFC number early.!  Although not carved in stone, the EFC is the first number used in the process of determining a student and families demonstrated (financial) need. As the first chart illustrates, as options change, so will the cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room, board, and other indirect charges), and need. Secret #1 – the EFC, never changes.

Now we need to learn the rest of the calculation to understand what our financial gap (prequalified) would look like as we go shopping.

As part of the overall college selection process, we need to know a student/family’s tuition assistance number. Tuition Assistance is the financial support provided through multiple sources to help supplement a student/family’s ability to meet the cost of attendance at a specific school. Financial aid, scholarships, grants, and self-help (loans and work) are typically what fills the category. The other driving factor is how a student’s profile matches a school’s admissions requirements and enrollment needs. Secret #2 – Schools have different needs.

So now we have walked through a high-level paying for College 101 Overview. Understanding one’s Financial Gap at the beginning of the college search and selection journey should be part of every college planning checklist. Students and parents should know the numbers, while at the same time, learning about academics, athletics, selectivity, and the graduation rate. In the end, the choice to enroll in the college of one’s dreams must answer the question, is it the right choice, academically, personally, and financially.

Question on your EFC and how to ultimately learn your financial gap, schedule a conversation to learn how Get College Going can help!

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