The College Money Talk - Does It Include Scholarships?
Have you had the college money talk with your teen?
Paying for college is always a hot (dreaded?) topic for parents of college-bound teens. If you're thinking scholarships may be a way to make the financial burden lighter, you're right. If you're thinking winning scholarships is a lot of work, you're right about that, too. But it's worth it.
Scholarships.com suggests that if you "apply to two or three dozen of them to increase the odds" and you're likely to win one or two scholarships. With amounts that could range from $1000 - $5000, winning one or two free-money awards is not a bad deal.
If your teen is a senior, then waste no time in getting started. If your teen is a high school junior, now is a great time to begin the process. See the tips and resources section below to get started.
What does the college say about scholarships?
Also, don't forget to ask about scholarship opportunities when you visit college campuses. Make an appointment to meet with the financial officer so you'll know what it's expected and the deadlines related that that particual institution. One important question to ask is this: How will winning scholarships impact my financial aid award from this college?" The answer will help you better evaluate all of the options.
Scholarship Tips and Resource
- Sign up for free scholarship search sites such as Cappex, FastWeb, Zinch or Scholarships.com.
- Avoid sites that require you to pay for a scholarship search.
- Check area high school guidance web sites (not just at the high school where your teen attends but all of those in your region).
- Get organized. Establish a file folder system for keeping everything on track. (Download our free Word doc and print labels for your folders.)
- Treat it like a job. Set aside a certain every day to work on scholarship research and applications.
- Read our daily tips from Scholarship Mom - published every Thursday!
Scholarship Mom Tip #34: Know the Definition of Financial Need
If your family is struggling to find money for your student’s college tuition and fees, go ahead and apply for scholarships open to students with financial need, making sure to carefully read the requirements provided in the guidelines for each scholarship application.
Many applications will use the term “financial need” but then not ask for specific family income numbers. Others will want detailed financial information, but then also give students a place to explain why they need the scholarship money.
Never pass up a scholarship opportunity by assuming your student will not financially qualify to apply. Take the time to read each set of scholarship guidelines before making an informed decision.
Monica Matthews is our favorite scholarship mom! After helping her son win $100,000 in scholarships for his college education, she founded How2WinScholarships.com to share what she learned along the way and now she's sharing her tips with SmartCollegeVisit!
College Expenses: Planning Ahead is a Must
"How America Pays for College 2013" is a national study released by Sallie Mae that gives us a look college costs and who's paying.
In addition, the report indicates that 85% of parents believe that a college education is a smart investment. As you plan your college visits, be sure to go prepared with a list of questions about financial aid and scholarships.
Explore the infographic above (click on the image to open) to see how the parents surveyed report on where the money comes from when it comes to financing a college education.
College Money Tip:
Watch your expenses. Take out only the amount of student loans you need to cover college costs. Some students felt that a 3.4% rate justified using student loan money to cover living expenses, but that isn’t a sound strategy any more. Consider living at home, sharing a room, and take full advantage of your meal plan. Using student loan money to go out for pizza every week could cost you a lot of money in the long run.
-- Jodi Okun, College Financial Advisors
Takeaway Tweets from #CampusChat: Money Talks
Q1: What do I need to know about a college before we can have a money talk?
@JodiOkun A1 Cost of Attendance is a good first step – go on to college websites and it is always listed #campuschat -9:05 PM Mar 6th,
@JodiOkun A1 Also check out the net price calculator on each college website to get an idea if you eligible for need based aid #campuschat -9:06 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun A1 Always go to financial aid office a counselor will meet with you and discuss any questions you have #campuschat -9:09 PM
@fujifulgueras @@JodiOkun Cost of attendance key term. Too many people ask "tuition" - which is only part of the cost of college #campuschat -9:09 PM Mar 6th, 2013
Q2: What kind of awards are there?
@JodiOkun A2 There are merit awards for grades - this is free money in the form of grants or scholarships #campuschat -9:11 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@collegevisit Key terms to know: "NPC" = Net Price Calculator & "Cost of attendance" = total college costs, not just tuition #campuschat -9:12 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun A2 Also you can receive need based aid if you file out the FAFSA and are eligible #campuschat -9:13 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun say it again one more time for the people sitting in the far away LOL RT @aidscholarship: Always, ALWAYS submit the FAFSA!!! #CampusChat -9:16 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@AidScholarship Not just once! EACH year! RT @collegevisit: And, submit the #FAFSA each year student is in college! #campuschat -9:20 PM Mar 6th, 2013
Q3: When are financial aid awards sent? Do they come with offer letters?
@JodiOkun A3 Fin Aid awards are sent w/ the letter of acceptance or 3 weeks after u have been accepted to the college #campuschat -9:21 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun A3 Most schools post award letters on the student center – snail mail is getting kinda pricey #campuschat -9:23 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@AidScholarship Some schools are completely paperless. Keep checking email for award notices! #CampusChat -9:25 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@collegevisit @@JodiOkun When financial is awarded, is an amount deducted from the college bill? #campuschat -9:28 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun colleges say they save over $10,000 if they go paperless RT @aidscholarship: My oldest son's university was paperless. #CampusChat -9:30 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun no there is still time some priority dates have passed but submit RT @collegevisit: Is it too late to submit the #FAFSA? #campuschat -9:34 PM Mar 6th, 2013
Q4: Is financial negotiable?
@JodiOkun A4 If there is something happening in your family, job loss, medical etc please let fin aid office know #campuschat -9:35 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@AidScholarship RT @fujifulgueras: A4 Families can appeal a colleges #finaid offer. Call the college & provide documentation to support appeal #campuschat -9:41 PM Mar 6th, 2013
Q5: Should I use my retirement $$ to pay for my kid's college?
@JodiOkun A5 no please don’t use your retirement to pay for college #campuschat -9:41 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@AmySchmidtSmith Can/do colleges bill multiple households for tuition payments? Think step-parent scenario. Thanks! #campuschat -9:45 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@fujifulgueras @AmySchmidtSmith The FAFSA is completed by the parent with whom the student/child resides #campuschat -9:48 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun @fujifulgueras here is our #CollegeCash Pinterest Board http://t.co/htjRNjnsQh #campuschat #pinchat <- enjoy @Tribe2point0 -9:48 PM Mar 6th, 2013
Q6: Even if I can afford to pay for college, should I fill out the FAFSA?
@JodiOkun A6 – yes fill out the FAFSA – you may need it down the road - just in case #campuschat -9:51 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@KEducaTionL Many scholarships do require FAFSA. RT @@JodiOkun: A6 yes you may also need it for scholarship opportunities #campuschat -9:53 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@fujifulgueras Good website sheet to use to compare colleges - http://t.co/JYLPuzGfup #campuschat via @JonBoeckenstedt -9:55 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@collegevisit @@JodiOkun What should a parent gather before filling out the fafsa? #campuschat -9:56 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun @collegevisit current 1040 - DL # - SSN# - W2's - Bank statements end of month - List of colleges applying to #campuschat -9:58 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@akilbello @@JodiOkun but how can you know what's affordable until aid awarded and scholarships applied for ? #campuschat -9:59 PM Mar 6th, 2013
@JodiOkun @akilbello I do a projected budget worksheet w/ parents so we are 80% ready & when award arrives we have about 30 days 2 decide #campuschat -10:01 PM Mar 6th, 2013
FAFSA: Pros, Cons, and Deadlines Tonight on #CampusChat
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid
With FAFSA deadlines looming (you know that, right?), we thought it would be a good idea to discuss FAFSA myths and facts. Tonight's chat is an open forum and we welcome input from finanical aid experts, parents, and counselors. If you already have questions you'd like answered, please post in the comments section and we'll get you pointed in the right direction.
For now, here are some of the resources we've found helpful:
- The Real FAFSA Deadlines (eduLaunchPad)
- Top Five FAFSA Mistakes: How to avoid them (Russell Golowin, College Relief Funding)
- 10 Good reasons to file the FAFSA (Suzanne Shaffer, Parents Countdown to College Coach)
- FAFSA La Vista, Baby (Michael Szarek, College Counseling for the Rest of Us)
And, from the U. S. Government:
- Where to get the FAFSA application: www.fafsa.ed.gov
- Where students and parents can request a Personal Identification Number (PIN): www.pin.ed.gov
- Where to get more information from the U.S. Department of Education on student aid: http://studentaid.ed.gov
Join us on Wednesday nights at 9pm, Eastern (follow @collegevisit on Twitter and the hashtag #CampusChat).
College Visit Tour Tip: When visiting campus, ask questions about make an appointment with a representative from the financial aid department. For a list of questions parents should consider asking, see Top 5 Questions to Ask about Financial Aid: Parent-to-Parent.
Smart College Price Calculators
No longer must families wait until their student is accepted to learn about their “real” price of attending that college or university – the price after all sources of aid are considered. With the new transparency in education, families will have access to net price information long before they send out applications. Perhaps even before they decide upon a campus visit.
Starting in October, the federal government will require undergraduate institutions to offer a net price calculator on their websites to give students an estimated cost of attending their college -- a sort of Expedia or Carfax of higher education.
Given that the price of attending college often equals the cost of buying a new car every year, this makes sense. People are concerned about borrowing heavily for higher education and more likely now to consider net price as a major factor when deciding among various colleges.
The manner of arriving at the net price of a college for a student, after taking into account all scholarships, grants, work study, and loans can be the most frustrating aspects of the admissions process. Some colleges have been posting net price calculators or "estimators" for several years, and the federal government also has provided a template.
How good are these various price calculators? How do they compare? It’s important that the information used in these calculations be up-to-date and factor in a student’s unique financial and academic circumstances. The federal net price calculator template is a model and understandably must take a "one size fits all" approach to aid-awarding criteria across all institutions. However, standards and packages vary with each college.
The biggest plus and major drawback of the federal template is that it asks only eight questions to determine a student's dependency status, expected family contribution and price of attendance. Key questions about family assets and income exclusions are not asked, nor does it consider merit-aid criteria.
Price calculators built on the federal template show net price, but don’t calculate up-front, out-of-pocket costs, which means students won’t see how loans and work-study could reduce their net price.
Some college and universities are using price calculators customized especially for them. They may take longer to complete, but they incorporate the institution’s grants and methods of determining aid and a thorough examination of the student’s financial and academic situation. That’s 15 minutes well spent.
- When Your Child Turns 18 and Goes to College: What Parents Need to Know (SCV)
- Panels of Experts Address Net Price Calculators and Financial Aid Award Letters (NACAC)
- The Net Price Calculator: Financial Aid ‘Game-Changer’? (NYT)
Beyond Tuition - the Add-ons to College Add Up
You've written the BIG CHECK for college tuition, but don't think you're done yet -- there's more to come! In the following guest post Suzanne Shaffer, founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach, lists some of the additional expenses that often catch parents by surprise right before their child heads off to college.
Your college-bound teen has made that all-important college decision and is headed off in the fall to begin his/her new adventure. You’ve got the tuition, room and board taken care of with scholarships, grants, work study and possibly some loans. You know that you’ve got to figure in some costs for textbooks, dorm accessories and possibly a laptop. But, is that all you have to factor in for expenses? It’s unlikely.
Here are just a few added costs that can tack on hundreds and even thousands to your college costs:
Health Insurance—Colleges require that your child be covered by insurance. You can keep them on your policy until they graduate, but if you don’t have family medical coverage, plan on spending $500-$1000 for this little extra. Be sure to notify the college of your coverage so they won’t bill you for theirs.
Gym fees—Some colleges include these in tuition, but some don’t. Michigan State and Penn State charge for the use of their on-campus facilities (up to $80 per semester).
Parking and car registration—Many campuses discourage freshmen from bringing cars to college. But if your teen is commuting, they are going to have to pay those fees to park while they attend classes.
Activity fees—These pesky little buggers appear on your bill every semester. They can start at $100 and go up into the thousands. What are they? Every college uses them to offset expenses without having to state specifics.
Dorm damage deposit—This fee will appear on your bill if your child is living on campus. Don’t EVER expect to get it back. College students are notorious for abusing their dorm rooms. Even if yours is a neat freak, odds are their roommate won’t be.
Computer insurance—If your child is bringing a computer to campus (especially a laptop), I highly recommend you purchase this insurance. It covers loss, damage and theft and it’s worth every penny you will spend.
Dorm contents insurance—Although most campuses say they are secure, students tend to leave their doors unlocked and let anyone into their dorm halls (even if they don’t know them). It’s worth the added minimal expense.
College campus cards—These cards are used for on-campus necessities (laundry, snacks, copies, class supplies). It’s like a debit card and you will need to put money on it for each semester.
Technology fees—Most colleges have computer labs, Wifi access, Ethernet connections and video equipment. Colleges charge these fees to offset their costs for maintaining these services.
Lab fees—In addition to tuition, colleges charge fees for the use of lab equipment. Fees vary but can easily top off to $100 or more.
Greek life—If you child is considering a sorority or fraternity, there are yearly dues involved ($100-$500), not to mention all the other costs involved (t-shirts, pins, formal attire, gifts for sisters/brothers).
Spending money—More than 2/3 of students report receiving funds from home each month. You can count on adding about $300 a month for this little extra!
Travel expenses—If your teen is traveling to a college away from home, don’t forget to factor in those travel costs: gas, airfare, and other transportation costs. You can count on at least 3-4 home visits the first year of college.
You can see that $100 here and $200 there can easily add up to thousands of dollars added on to the money you are already spending on that college education. Be smart and plan ahead for these expenses.
Suzanne Shaffer is founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach and developer of a unique, downloadable, toolkit to guide parents and students throughout the college admissions process. She is frequent contributor to SmartCollegeVisit and has been a featured expert guest on #CampusChat.
Top Tweets on Paying for College from #CampusChat with Russell Golowin
Does it matter when you submit the FAFSA?
Does applying Early Decision impact financial aid awards?
These were some of the questions addressed by Russell Golowin, founder of College Funding Relief, LLC, during #CampusChat, June 23, 2010. The conversation was active with terrific input from everyone who attended. Here are 6 Top Tweets taken from the 279 tweet-rich transcript. Feel free to pick your own top 6 or 60! If you write about #CampusChat, be sure to let us know (@collegevisit).
Top Tweets on Paying for College
Again, a huge thanks to Russell for being an expert guest on #CampusChat. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @Russell_Golowin and like or become a fan on the College Funding Relief Facebook page for more terrific information on paying for college.
#CampusChat is a weekly conversation, hosted by SmartCollegeVisit, that takes place on Twitter to discuss topics
relative to college-bound students and their families. It is held on Wednesday evenings at 9PM Eastern. Follow @collegevisit to stay informed about upcoming chats and for links to the transcripts should you miss a chat.
Top Five FAFSA Mistakes: How to avoid them
Russell Golowin, founder of College Relief Funding, LLC, shares his insight on the pitfalls and common mistakes by families regarding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process.
- Not filing the FAFSA at all. Many families assume that they are not eligible for the benefits of the FAFSA. The only way to be positive that you will not receive any federal aid is to not file the FAFSA.
- Applying to schools based on “Sticker Price”. The point of the FAFSA is to give aid where it is due. Sometimes by choosing to attend a reach school that seems expensive at face value, you are more likely to receive more aid when all the steps are taken properly. Students could possibly have greater difficulty affording a moderately priced school with minimal aid as opposed to a higher-priced school with maximal aid.
- Filing the FAFSA Late. Financial aid is first come, first serve! Don’t minimize your aid by making this silly mistake!
- Applying to a minimum number of schools. By applying to several schools, you give yourself options. If you only apply to one safety and one reach school, neither school is likely to give you very much aid at all. The reach school knows that if you get accepted there, you will probably want to go there. The safety school knows that if you don’t get into the reach school, you will have to go there. Golowin suggests that students apply to at least six schools.
- Becoming informed too late in the process. Many families don’t start actually learning about the process until pressure is overwhelming—deadlines need to be met, papers need to be filled out and filed, and final decisions need to be made. Golowin suggests that families start planning no later than a student’s junior year in high school and encourages beginning as early as middle school. By beginning early, the student has a lot of time to learn about deadlines and college options.
To learn more about the financial aid planning process, join us Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 9 p.m., Eastern, for #CampusChat on Twitter. Russell Golowin, founder of College Relief Funding (on the web at http://graduate4less.com) will be our expert guest.
Chelsea Merget, a junior at Boston University is pursuing a degree in Communications with a minor in Psychology. She is spending the summer as a public relations intern with Smart College Visit, Inc.
Top 5 Questions to Ask about Financial Aid: Parent-to-Parent
Planning to visit the Financial Aid Office on your next college visit? Here are the top five questions to ask according to Suzanne Shaffer, founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach. Shaffer, a parent-turned-coach on navigating the college maze, developed the Parent Countdown to College Toolkit to help families better understand the entire college admissions process. She suggests parents keep these questions in mind as they plan their next college visits and encourages them to take the time to schedule an appointment with the school's office of financial aid.1. What are your financial aid deadlines?
In addition to deadlines for the standard financial aid applications: the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) and PROFILE, the financial aid application service of the College Board, colleges may also have their own deadlines and forms. Be sure to ask if the school's financial aid forms are different for need-based and merit-based aid when the deadlines are. Note many schools have declared March 1 as their priority filing date for financial aid. Be sure to confirm each school's priority filing dates.
2. What is your Cost of Attendance (COA) for the current year?
There are precisely six components to a college student's complete budget:
- Room and Board
- College Textbooks and Supplies
- Personal expenses
Many proposed budgets only include Direct Costs (which are the first three items listed) and typically what you will pay directly to the bursar's office. However, the U. S. Department of Education requires that colleges fully inform you as to all of the above costs, so find out specifically what those amounts are to establish a complete budget for college expenses.
3. How much of an increase in the COA do you project for next year?
When you ask this question, be sure to request the specifics related to each cost component. Tuition and Room and Board increases are independent of each other. For example, one school may expect an increase of 5 percent in tuition and fees, but a 10 percent increase in Room and Board. This information will help with budgeting but also gives the financial aid officer the impression that you are an informed parent.
4. Are you able to meet 100 percent of financial need?
If they say "No," find out why, and get details. Is the policy based on "first come, first served?" What's the average percentage of need the school can meet? What percentage is in the form of grants and how much is in the form of loans? Is there a dollar amount left as a gap (unmet need) for everyone? Do they include Parent Loans (PLUS) in the aid package?
(Note: They shouldn't do this...those loans are to be used for your EFC-Expected Family Contribution, not for meeting the financial need of the student.)
5. Do you offer Merit Scholarships, and how do you treat private scholarships that my child may earn on his own?
If a Merit Scholarship is being awarded, it normally goes into the financial aid package first, reducing the amount of need-based aid. Find out if a merit award reduces the self-help in the package, or if it replaces other need-based grants. A true Merit Scholarship can go beyond the "need" level, which means that it can lower your EFC.