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Finance Questions to Ask on a College Visit

University of California's Eligibility in the Local Context
Jan Combs

Written by Jan Combson February 8th, 2022

I came to College Coach with nearly 30 years of related professional experiences. As a director of financial aid at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I determined student financial aid eligibility, oversaw a number of scholarship and fellowship programs, and worked closely with students to guide them through the financial aid application process and the many steps to enrollment. As an account executive at two national lenders, I worked closely with students and advised them on financial literacy related best practices as well as student loan repayment options and strategies. More recently as a high school guidance counselor, I assisted a diverse group of students with their college admission, financial aid, and scholarship applications. Supporting students and their families through each of those overwhelming processes was very rewarding. I was able to offer valuable assistance to students throughout the entire process, as well as guide them when making their final decisions as to where to attend college and how they would cover the college bill. Currently, I serve as a seminar facilitator for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), assisting families with both the college admissions process as well as the college financing process.
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During the upcoming months, students will travel to college campuses to attend information sessions, join campus tours, and observe faculty-led events. These visits help students get a sense of what a college is all about and may ultimately help them decide if a college is the right fit. In an effort to maximize these visits, students should allow enough time to explore, grab a school newspaper, check out the student union, catch the campus vibe, and ask as many questions as possible. Oftentimes students focus solely on connecting with the admissions office to learn more about the application process, program offerings, and of course, to indicate their interest in attending. I encourage prospective students to also think about the financial aspects related to the college planning process: financial aid requirements and deadlines, merit scholarships offerings, work opportunities, and overall costs to attend the college. Here are some questions to consider asking during your visits:
  • What forms are required to apply for financial aid?
  • Do you get extra money for completing the financial aid forms before the published deadline?
  • Is your Net Price Calculator accurate? Do you also have a scholarship calculator?
  • Next year my sibling will also be in college. Will I get more financial aid when we are both in college?
  • I have read that there are going to be changes in the federal financial aid formula. Can you explain how this will impact financial aid at your school?
  • Are there other ways of paying for college beyond financial aid and loans?
  • Can we pay the school monthly instead of borrowing loans?
  • Are scholarship and financial aid awards sent out at the same time as the acceptance letters?
  • I am considering a five-year program. Is financial aid available for all five years?
  • Do costs, such as tuition, go up every year? If so, does financial aid also increase each year?
  • If I decide to join a fraternity or a sorority, are there costs associated with that?
  • If I study abroad, can I use my financial aid to pay for it?
  • Is it less expensive to live off campus, or are the dorms less expensive?
  • Are there any discount programs for laptop purchases?
  • Do Early Decision candidates receive the same amount of merit aid as Regular Admission candidates?
  • Do I have to apply separately for each scholarship or just submit one application?
  • Do you offer scholarships based on my major of choice?
  • If I win some private scholarships, will this affect my financial aid award?
  • What types of on-campus jobs are available to first-year students? Are all students able to work on campus?
  • Are there any paid internships available? Do companies come to campus to recruit?
  • If we do need to borrow, how do we find the right loan program?
The questions above are designed to help you figure out what may be relevant for your personal situation. How will you know if a college meets your financial priorities? Make sure to spend enough time on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods to get a sense of all that the college truly has to offer. Check out as many corners of campus as allowed and ask as many questions as you can, including those important finance questions. Enjoy your visits!

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