Part One: Do your finance homework before making college visits
The car is packed and you’re ready to hit the road for a summer tour of colleges with your soon-to-be high school senior. While your student is checking out the majors offered, the size of the dorm rooms, and the quality of the food, you’re probably wondering about the price tag. Unfortunately, you can’t learn your exact “bottom line” at a college until your child’s senior year when he or she applies for college admission, scholarships, and financial aid. However, the initial college visit is a perfect time to collect information about financial aid and pricing practices, and to establish a general idea of the aid your student might receive.
First Step: Look at each college’s online resources
The first step is preparing for your visit. Research each college’s website to learn about the types of financial aid offered, including merit scholarships. Use the college’s net price calculator, which will give you an estimate of what your student might qualify for in scholarships and grants. Be aware that this is only an estimate and should not be considered the final word on how much your student will receive.
Second Step: Use other websites to estimate financial aid availability
Finally, use college search tools like The College Board (www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org) and The College Navigator (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/) to research average need-based financial aid awards and non-need based scholarships at each college, keeping in mind how your family’s income and your child’s academic profile compare to those of the “average” applicant at that school.
Third Step: Stay tuned to College Coach’s blog
Take the advice we’ve given here and go start your homework. Come back next week when we’ll provide you with some questions to ask an admissions or financial aid counselor that will clarify what you have already learned from the institutional website.