How Much Should Financial Aid Factor Into Your College Choice?
By Jodi Okun. Paying for College Expert
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While some high school seniors have their college plans completed by January, most are really feeling the pinch about making their final decision. The application process should be complete, and the FAFSA should be submitted soon. The Department of Education will use this information to develop an Expected Family Contribution and forward that information to your prospective colleges. If you are accepted, the colleges use this information to calculate a financial aid package.
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Students who have been accepted by several colleges have a limited amount of time to make their final selection. What factors should you take into consideration when making such an important decision? Certainly, money does have to play an important role. The student and parents should sit down together and have a discussion about college costs and their impact on the family’s financial situation. You will need to compare each college’s Cost of Attendance (COA) against their financial aid offer. Look closely at each offer to determine how much is made up of student loans and how much you will be expected to pay out of pocket.
Add in whatever amounts are necessary for travel and living expenses, especially if there is a choice to be made between in-state and out-of-state schools.
Try to determine a net cost for each school so that you will realistically be able to compare them against each
other. This should give you a good starting point, but money should not be the only factor in your college choice. Make a list of the pros and cons for each school. Some other points that may be important to you include:
- School Fit: Since a student is most likely to thrive at a school that is a good fit, it is important to think about the intangible aspects of the college choice as well. Does your child like a small or large school, isolated or city location, or one that has plenty of study abroad options? It may be necessary to take another trip soon to two of your top-ranked colleges to get another feel for their fit.
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- Earning Potential: If it is going to cost a little more to attend a specific institution, it may be worth the expense if your child can get a great job after graduation. Check with the schools to compare graduation rates, post-graduation employment rates, and average earning levels for graduates.
- Course Selection: Sometimes it comes down to the school which offers the widest array of classes in your child’s preferred major. This may not be important for a child who is not passionate about a specific career, but it can be crucial for the student who has already decided on a career path. At that point, it may be better to select a college that is best able to equip your child for professional success.
While money is not the only factor, it is an important one. If a school rates high on the intangibles list, but will cost more, the student and the parents will need to make some tough choices. Think about whether there might be some additional ways of earning money, apply for as many scholarships as possible, or try to determine if you might be able to earn credits by taking core classes at a local college during summer breaks. If the student or parents do need to apply for student loans. talk about all their implications now. Looking at the big picture should help make the final selection easier.Source: collegesavings.about.com
Category: Personal Finance