The Financial Factor, Part 3                                                                by Patti Brugman

By Patti Brugman

Ah-h, wouldn’t it be nice to know just how to tackle the job of paying for college?  Money is often a topic that families avoid because the cost seems to reduce the dream of attending Perfect U.  But consider this-- knowledge is power, and knowledge, as you will see, will get you the money you need. Just by figuring out the numbers, you’ll feel so much excited about the whole college process.  Here’s how to start:

1. If you feel twinges of financial panic about that first tuition bill, think about your options.  It’s all right to apply to financial “reach” schools in case you get a windfall, but everyone should have a financial “safety” school on their list, no matter what’s in the bank.  This means that there is one school on the list that will work no matter what changes occur in your financial situation.

2.  Go to Collegeboard.com—Pay For College-- EFC Indicator.  (EFC stands for Estimated Family Contribution.)  This is how you determine your eligibility for financial aid from FAFSA or directly from schools. Please note, that very few schools are 100% need blind, so if you calculate a significant need, that money might come to you in a composite of the options (see last week’s blog.)  You might be given some grant money, for example, and be offered the rest in loans. 

3. Grants and Merit Scholarships.  The best money is money that doesn’t have to be repaid.  If you have a choice between Perfect U and Pretty-Good U, remember:  An excellent education can be found anywhere a student is willing to work for it.  Perfect U might be prestigious, but you might also have to borrow money to attend.  At Pretty-Good U, however, you might be offered a full or partial ride.  Wow, what a difference!  Even though Pretty Good U isn’t a big name brand, the bottom line is “lower cost,” and in the end, that might pay you back more than a fancy name will.

4. Who gets merit money?  Merit money is meant to entice the best students away from the Most Selective schools so that they will attend a More Selective school.  This is a great opportunity for an excellent student to get a big break on their education costs, while still getting a terrific education. 

5. How does this work?  High achieving students are an advantage to most schools, because they will “up” the school’s profile.  College students spend more time with each other than they do with their professors.  While quality teachers are important, so are quality students because they educate the other students.  It’s part of the college magic. A high-achieving student in an otherwise, modest achieving student body, will help everyone do better.  Through a diversity of interests, abilities, and ambitions, peers make a huge difference on the overall student population. 

This summer, when making your list of schools, keep in mind the financial factor.  You’ll have more colleges to choose from now, and more financial freedom at graduation.

 

--All the best from Perfectfitcollege.Net  7/12