College Expenses Financial Aid Won’t Cover

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The right school has been identified, the decision made…

You know what the costs will be and you’ve got them covered…

Unfortunately, you may need to reconsider…

Surprisingly (yeah, sure…), while schools provide the projected cost-of-attendance for the year, those estimates can be rather inaccurate. Especially for those living off campus or out-of-state.

What do schools often underestimate?

The affordability of residing off-campus. It’s not just the rent (often, first and last month’s rent) and food; transportation, utilities, laundry, entertainment, travel expenses, and more must be considered.

Be sure to budget accordingly.

Don’t let the expense of living well during the 4-year adventure prevent you from living well once you begin life in the real world.

Save Money, Live on Campus?

Families should not focus only on tuition when planning the “paying for college” budget. The room and board expense also should be considered.

According to data reported to U.S. News via an annual survey of schools, the average expense for room and board was $10,644 for the 2017-18 academic year.

As costs vary from school-to-school, depending on the location of the school, living on campus may be the cheapest option available to students and families. Here are five examples:

  1. If your school is located in an area where living expenses exceed the national average;
  2. Your school offers housing scholarships;
  3. You’re able to become a Resident Advisor;
  4. You plan to return home during the summer; and/or,
  5. Your school offers a broad range of room rates.

College Differs from High School…Really??

Unless you’ve spent a weekend on campus with an older sibling, it may be quite difficult to picture how life on campus differs from life in high school.

The difference that supersedes all others?

You’re in charge.

You’re in charge of your time, your classwork, your studies, your social life, your living quarters, your money, and your mood. Unlike high school, there really is no safety net.

One of the biggest challenges – the more than ample free time at your disposal (unless you’re an athlete, but that’s another story). You might schedule 2-3 classes one day, 0-1 the next. While kicking back and entertaining yourself might be quite tempting, you’ll need to wisely allocate your time.

Guess what? Information isn’t crammed down your throat. You’re responsible for learning the material, even the data not covered in class. You’ll be expected to participate and you may even be graded on attendance.

College exams are infrequent and much tougher. Cramming won’t save the day! You’’ be expected to display mastery of content; luck guesses are few and far between.

New friends, multiple parties, no bed checks…ample opportunity for way too much fun. Successful students learn to balance school with fun, focusing on schoolwork.

You likely will be sharing a room with one or more strangers. Be sure you know how to negotiate, from lights out to what’s considered neat. While a roommate may never become your best friend, they can expand your horizons (e.g., culture, academics, recreation, etc.).

Rough patches in college are to be expected. Changes may need to be made. It may take a few months to acclimate to your new-found independence. And when you acclimate, you’ll likely find college an immensely rewarding experience.

 

 

The Economic Importance of a College Education

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Quite often, we meet parents who, for a variety of reasons, but most specifically “sticker price,” either no longer believe or are no longer convinced that a college education is as important as it once may have been.

Many of those parents appeared hopeless, believing they had absolutely no way of covering their portion of the cost of their children’s education.

And, many of those parents were resigned to the “fact” that their children’s lives would not be better than their own.

So…

Just how important to a child’s success is a college education???

According to a September 20, 2017 column on townhall.com written by Terry Jeffrey, a major factor affecting income inequality is the level of education attained.

According to the Census Bureau’s Table FINC-01, families with a householder 25 or older:

Level of Education                                         Median Income

High school graduate, no college                 $     54,601

Some college, no degree                                $     66,859

Associate’s Degree                                          $     76,012

Bachelor’s Degree                                           $   105,271

Master’s Degree                                              $   124,302

Doctorate                                                         $   155,089

Professional Degree                                       $   166,662

It’s clear that median income directly correlates with the level of education received. Further, the difference in median income between a high school graduate and a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree is just over $50,000 – not an insignificant sum!

While it’s possible for our children to survive economically with only a high school degree, might it not be in their best interests, the best interests of their future family, and the best interests of society to help them do more than just survive economically. Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned to help them thrive?

Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance in beginning your family’s college planning campaign.

4 Questions for the FAO on Your College Visit

With everything that happens during a high school year, if you can’t plan a college visit at some point during the school year, don’t fret!

School year visits are tough for everyone…

And, Summer seems to be when everyone has time to plan a visit.

While campus visits allow a family to form an initial impression about a school, they also should be used to determine if a school will be affordable.

Driving down into specifics of an award shouldn’t be the focus during a visit. After all, you may not have applied yet for admission. But, it’s a good time to gather information and clarify possibilities.

So…here are four questions you might consider asking a Financial Aid Officer (FAO) while on your visit…

  1. What does a typical freshman financial aid award look like?

Most students qualify for some aid; the type and mix varies depending on the school.

As an award can be a mixture of grants, scholarships, work study, and loans, it’s important to note how much of a family’s need the school will meet and how the school plans to meet it.

Will it be through a greater percentage of “free money” or a greater percentage of loans?

  1. What types of scholarships are available?

Will the school award aid on a basis other than need, through “merit aid” or “scholarship aid?”

Find out if there is money set aside for minorities, women, or military families.

Determine how the scholarships are awarded and if they will be renewable each year. Some schools provide quite a large amount of aid freshman year in an effort to lure students, reducing aid considerably in subsequent years.

  1. How many years will an average student take to earn an undergraduate degree?

The best means of ensuring affordability is by ensuring your student is on a four-year plan. An additional year or two can cost a family tens of thousands of dollars.

What’s the average graduation rate? If it’s a cause for concern, is it due to course availability or lack of student support?

  1. How much indebtedness is experienced by the typical graduate?

The typical debt burden upon graduation ranges from $27,000-$35,000. Where does the particular school fit?

Universities are required to track and report the total amount in federal loans that their graduates borrowed.

If you’re looking for assistance with your college planning campaign, look no further.  Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule your no obligation evaluation.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Juggling Finances During the College Years…

From a student perspective…

It’s not the amount you have that counts; it’s how you use it.  Now and, perhaps, throughout your lifetime, you’ll be called upon to stretch a dollar or juggle your finances.  Here are a few money-saving tips to consider:

Control your spending.  Prepare a budget, then follow it.

Ditch the car, if you can.  Car payments, upkeep, and insurance will take a huge chunk out of available funds.

Use credit wisely.  Obtain a low-limit card, using it only for planned purchase and/or emergencies.

Buy used books, rent them if it’s an option.  Keep them unmarked and in good condition, then resell them.  If rented, return them.

Pay bills timely.  Late fees are ridiculous.  On-time payments create a good credit history.

Set aside money for fun.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself!

Save 10% of any income.  You have a very long life ahead of you (though it does go faster as you age!).  Build the resources you’ll need for a comfortable, affordable retirement.

Parents – our Professional College Planners are here to assist you with your college planning campaign.  Call or email to schedule an appointment.

Wait-Listed: A Covert Denial?

You’re son/daughter has been wait-listed by the top-choice school, he/she is moping around depressed because his/her school really isn’t interested…

Hey… Don’t give up!

Roughly 40% of 4-yer schools employ some form of a wait list. Schools do this to flag qualified students who may be admitted if a spot becomes available (e.g., an accepted students chooses to attend elsewhere).

Schools know some admittees will turn them down and, if more than expected do so, room opens up for others. Those “others” come from the school’s wait list.

Schools admit roughly 30% of wait-listed students. Selective schools admit far less, but the percentage admitted can fluctuate yearly.

READ the wait-list letter. Perhaps it states your son/daughter will be in the first pool considered. Maybe it ranks him/her and indicates how many of last year’s wait-listers were admitted. If no information is included, contact the admissions office to ask if there is a priority list or if the list is ranked. Find out if your son daughter is on the list and if there are financial aid limitations for wait-list admittees.

Immediate Steps to Take

  1. Reserve a spot at the next-choice school to which he/she was admitted. Send in the deposit. This provides time to consider next steps.
  2. Decide whether or not to remain on the list. If you need financial aid, the wait-list school may not have any available by the time of admittance. If opting to stay on the list, follow procedures indicated in the letter.
  3. Start planning to attend the next-choice school (see 1. above). This is the school your son/daughter likely will attend.

Staying on the list? Don’t just sit there!

Your son/daughter should send a letter letting the school know how excited he/she would be to attend and why it would be a great fit. The letter should be followed by a phone call. Send updates on grades, awards, and other signs of significant academic or extracurricular progress. Obtain a recommendation letter from someone who hasn’t written one for you (be sure to include something new).

Don’t be a pest or appear desperate! If the top-choice school doesn’t want your son/daughter, big deal. Everyone wins, as he/she will be attending an excellent school, one that always wanted him/her.

If you or anyone you know could use some help with your college planning campaign, contact our Professional College Planners to schedule an appointment to discuss the status of your current plan.

What Black Students Need to Know about Paying for College…

The following has been adapted from a March 6, 2017 article written by Selena Hill:

Currently, when considering student debt held by both students and graduates, more than $1.3 Trillion of student loan debt stands ready to shatter the best laid plans of students and their parents. Students today graduate from a 4-year institution bearing an average of just over $37,000 in student debt.

Class of 2016 graduates will spend more than 20 years paying off that debt. Though outrageous, statistics demonstrate that black students fare far worse.

 

According to a 2016 Brookings Institution study, black students assume greater numbers of loans in much higher amounts in financing their education when compared to students of other races. Black students from families of low-to-moderate incomes pay almost $8,000 more in student debt than white students.

While Black Enterprise (BE) Education Editor, Robin White-Goode, frequently addresses racial disparities in higher education, BE tackled the issue during the BE HBCU Summit held at Morgan State University in late February. According to a panel discussion held during the event, it is important for families to know 4 things:

1. The process

College-bound students and their families MUST educate themselves on the college application process. The MUST understand there will be hurdles. Stay on top of application deadlines for: the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid); grants; scholarships; and, other forms of aid. Further, students also MUST be aware of application requirements.

2. Create a school budget

While families should budget for the cost of tuition, room-and-board, and textbooks, students also need to properly budget for other items, such as transportation to and from school, miscellaneous fees, computers/laptops, entertainment, and more.

3. See the big picture

Planning for college is a daunting task. Planning ahead for all four years can be paralyzing. Plan on tuition increases. To plan accordingly, you must understand how grants work, work-study options, scholarships, and loans.

4. Know your resources

Parents and students MUST understand the difference between federal loans, state loans, interest rates, scholarships, and grants. Moreover, avoid for-profit schools that prey on students of colors.

What better reasons to engage the service of a Professional College Advisor. Contact us for the help you need.

6 Ways College Differs from High School…

While it’s difficult to know what college is really like until you get there, quickly comparing it to high school helps draw attention to a few significant differences. Who’s in charge? The student…

1. The student, not the school, manages his or her time.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing freshmen is the inordinate amount of “free” time. There may be 3 classes one day, none the next. There may be temptation to just “kick back;” but, it’s up to the student to allocate time to studies, to socializing, and to other pursuits.

2. Professors expect students to learn and think independently.

Another shock – students are now responsible for learning all course material on their own, even assigned material not covered in class. They are expected to speak up and debate key issues – they may be graded on participation.

3. Cramming doesn’t work.

While cramming for high school exams may prove successful, college exams occur less often and are more difficult, demanding more in written responses and a demonstration of content mastery. Students must set aside time for study during the week and they should not skip any classes.

4. Social life is wide open.

Students meet many new people, hanging out and staying up as late as they want. College may seem to be as much about fun as school work. Successful students quickly learn how to balance school work with fun, giving priority to school work.

5. Students share very small personal space with strangers.

Even if used to sharing a room with a sibling, doing so with someone you’ve never met can be quite challenging. Negotiating everything from “lights out” to what’s considered “neat” may be needed. While a roommate may not become a best buddy, he or she can help the student expand horizons through introduction to new cultures, academic fields, and recreational experiences.

6. The student is responsible for himself or herself.

There may be rough patches in college – shyness, disappointment in grades, over-spending, or over-indulging. Many students reach a point where change is needed. Fortunately, professors hold office hours to assist students and most campuses have health care centers and counselors to provide help and a listening ear when needed. It’s up to the student to take the steps needed.

Many freshmen report that it takes time, often months, to understand what freedom means to them. For most, college becomes immensely rewarding, from developing solid new friendships to having stimulating new experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Contact our Professional College Planners for help in developing your individualized college planning campaign.

 

 

Non-Campus Visits

While visiting a school before you apply is ALWAYS a good idea, doing so is not always possible. Whether due to a shortage of time or money, when a visit’s impossible, there a many ways to check out schools without leaving home.

Visit school websites.

Every school website is crammed with information bringing that school to life – YouTube videos, dorm photos, cafeteria menus, and so much more. Useful areas include: school news; academic departments; admissions; financial aid; and, student life.

Tour the school virtually.

Many schools, via their website or smartphone apps, offer virtual tours, guiding you through campus and providing many visuals. They also may include admission requirements and deadlines.

Review student newspapers.

Most schools have one or more newspapers written by students. Typically, current and prior editions can be found on the school’s website. They show what students consider important, how they have fun, and a variety of informal activities that may be available.

Speak with school representatives.

Ask your guidance counselor or browse the school’s website to learn how to contact local representatives of schools that interest you. Local reps can answer questions and help you determine if you’re a good fit for that particular school. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself.

Attend college fairs.

Schools send reps to fairs to meet students and parents and to introduce them to their particular school. Having prepared questions in advance, you can learn a great deal in a short period of time.

Welcome and appreciate school mailings.

Interested in information about a particular school? Visit its website and add your name to its mailing list. Each time you receive a mailing, scan it for new information and visuals.

Contact our Professional College Planners for more information on running an efficient college planning campaign.