1. Determine how much you can afford. There is more to this equation than savings. Be sure to factor in the $2,500 tax credit for each child attending college (based on income) and expenses that will be reduced or eliminated when your child goes to college.
2. Don’t base your decision on sticker price. All colleges are required to provide net price calculators which families can use to get a better idea of what the actual cost will be. Your student’s profile could result in affordable options at great schools.
3. When comparing award letters, subtract only grants and scholarships from the cost of attendance to determine net price. Exclude Direct Loans and work-study jobs. PLUS loans should never be included as a financial aid element.
4. Consider appealing directly to the college’s financial aid office if your family will experience a loss of income compared with 2012, will incur significant medical expenses, or if you pay private tuition for other children in your home.
5. Negotiate a better price. Find 3-5 comparable schools with lower prices and show the difference to the admissions officer. Include official award letters if available. If the school wants your child to attend, they will often work to find extra award money. Whatever you do, don’t call it a negotiation!
Frank Palmasani is a Chicago-area high school guidance counselor and former college director of admissions. He is a member of NACAC, IACAC, and the College Board.
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