by Jodi Okun, Author | CEO | Instructor | Brand Ambassador | Speaker | Columnist | Blogger,
As a high school junior or senior, this is a very exciting time of your life. Getting into the college of your dreams requires a combination of academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and a great college application. Once you get into that college, though, it’s time to think about how you and your parents will pay for it. That’s where college financial aid comes into play. The more you and your parents understand about how to pay for college, the better off you all will be in the long run. Here are four things you’ll need to know about college financial aid to get you started:
1. Always Look for the Net Price Calculator
You might be overwhelmed when you first see the cost for tuition and expenses at colleges you are thinking about attending, but that is what is known as the gross cost. It does not take into consideration any kind of college financial aid you might receive, such as grants, work-study programs, and scholarships, which can help reduce these costs. Schools are required to have a net price calculator on their web site which can help give you a better idea of what a typical student pays to attend that school based on your family’s income and other personal data that you enter into the calculator. This tool will give you an idea of what the net cost for that school is, after financial aid is taken into consideration. The net amount is more helpful in comparing potential colleges.
2. Make Sure Your College is a Good Value
Also ask the financial aid office how much it costs for the typical sophomore, junior and senior. Sometimes there are grants that are only applicable for freshmen, and costs go up after your initial year. Ask what percentage of students graduate, and how many graduate in four years. This information will give you a better handle on what the total costs of attending this college will be. Then ask about how many graduates in your major have jobs in that field, and how much money they are earning. That will help you project how much you can anticipate earning after you graduate.
3. Always Ask Questions
When you visit the college, talk to teachers and students about classes and campus life. Ask about any unusual scholarships or opportunities to earn money while you’re attending the college. You definitely need to stop by the financial aid office during your visit. Ask about the typical amount of financial aid, and find out if there are special programs for students in situations similar to your. Talk to people at your school and in your community to find out if they know about any scholarships which could help pay some of your expenses. Even after your parents have completed the FAFSA, and you have received your Student Aid Report, you can still ask questions if it seems like your Expected Family Contribution is too high.
4. Now is the Best Time for You to Learn About Money
Don’t wait until you graduate and find yourself in over your head in debt to learn about handling money. Ask your parents for advice about student loans, credit cards, and budgeting so you can make smart financial moves as you go through your college years.
Don’t let your parents do all the work for your college financial aid. Get involved and start receiving an education before you even get to college!