Paying for College – Know YOUR Numbers Early!

Education after high school is a critical life event that every student (and their family) needs 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 Prequalification

Parents of rising Sophomores 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 family’s demonstrated (financial) need. As the first chart illustrates, as school options change, so will the cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room, board, and other indirect charges), and the demonstrated 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 what a student/family might earn in tuition assistance money?  Tuition Assistance is the financial support that comes from 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 fill the category. The other driving factor is how a student’s profile matches a school’s admissions requirements, enrollment, and business (revenue) needs. Secret #2 – Schools have different needs; students offer different values; schools award students different money!

So we have walked through a high-level paying for College 101 Overview. Understanding the family’s financial gap is in essence a form of pre-approval, pre-qualification. The beginning of the college search and selection journey with numbers in mind is like buying a first home. You can fall in love with the home, but if you can’t afford to move in you’ll be in financial trouble. Falling in love with the “dream” school can be the same.

Find the right education path, for the right reason, at the right school for the right investment!

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

Looking for college planning support during these uncertain times, consider Pivotal College Years. Pivotal College Years, an online college planning resource, offers educational information, downloadable reference documents, and resources before, during, and after college. Sign up for Access to the College Planning Portal for Families   Everything you need for college planning in one place!