Many students and families will face a waiting period after college admission applications have been submitted and before the admission decision has been rendered. This is a perfect opportunity for families to familiarize themselves with the financial side of the college selection process and begin planning on the financial commitment to come.
Families should consider all of the hidden treasures that are found on most college financial aid websites. These include:
1) The School’s Net Price Calculator: Most colleges and universities will publish a tool called a “Net Price Calculator”, designed to help families estimated the true cost of attending the institution for an academic year. “Net Price” is defined as the estimated cost of attending the school, less any scholarship/gift aid. This tool can prove invaluable for families who must factor in finances to the student’s college selection. Not only does it provide a critical cash flow planning tool for families, but also provides a welcome comparison tool to compare “prices” of various schools. From the main school’s website, search for “net price calculator”. You’ll find it!
2) Award Strategy: Most students who apply for admission to a college research the criteria used by that college to admit them. However, what about financial aid? What criteria is used by the school to award their money? Most schools outline their award strategy on their website, which often explains:
-Whether the school awards their money based on financial need or merit (attractive qualities such as grades, unique talents, athleticism, etc) or both?
-Who awards merit monies (often this is the admissions team or other offices within the school, not the financial aid office)?
-Whether any merit money is renewable – does a scholarship last just one year?
-What factors are used to determine the family’s financial need?
3) Appeal Information: After admission decisions are rendered, any financial aid that is offered to the student usually follows. What happens if the financial aid award is not sufficient? Look for information on the school’s financial aid website about how to undergo an appeal for additional funding. There may be a form required for submission, or an email address that should be used for the quickest response.
4) Unique Scholarships: Many schools have funds that have been awarded by benefactors or alumni that are “restricted”, from endowments, or from private funding. Often these monies require specific criteria for eligibility, such as residency in a certain city, a particular ethnic profile, etc. Schools who must award these funds will generally advertise these opportunities on their financial aid website. Seek out these prospects and pursue any special application procedures that these awards require.
Ultimately, the college decision for most families extends far beyond the student’s admission choice. To ensure that families are familiar with the financial investment ahead, the school’s financial aid office and its web pages can be a vital resource to help make the student’s choice an affordable one. We here at Apply Right are also happy to help. Happy hunting!