1) Apply Broadly Enough — But Without a “Shotgun” Approach
The actual college application process is that next big step and one that can be a hurdle for many. Narrowing down colleges can be difficult for some and it is hard to how many colleges are too many. There is no hard and fast rule for applying to colleges, however, most counselors recommend from five to eight schools should be sufficient. Just applying to a large number of schools does not necessarily increase your child’s chances. And, it is also a costly endeavor to apply to an inordinate number of schools.
It is important to thoroughly research each and every school. Each school will have its pros and cons. It’s very important to weigh them carefully as this may be the place your child will spend the next four years. In addition to researching online, it’s a very good idea to make a visit to the school. Often, the online description can only tell so much. Getting to the campus and getting a feel for the place and talking directly with students can reveal much more than any website can show. Look at the money required at each schools, and definitely talk with a College Funding Professional, who should have access to the average amounts granted by each institution on your child’s list.
As another part of the vetting process, your child will need to look at the schools that are being considered and apply at the schools that are strong in his or her fields of interest.
It is important to determine what the actual costs will be at each school. This will have an impact on the type of aid packages for which your child is eligible. And, it is not necessarily going to be more expensive to attend high tuition schools. Often these schools have stronger aid packages and can award your son or daughter a better deal than a less expensive school. It is good to weigh all factors and not just money. Also, remember that the ticket cost may not be the real amount required to attend… talk with a College Funding Advisor for more details on that front.
Once the investigative phase of the schools has been completed, then you and your child will need to narrow the list down. The categories for narrowing down the list are often described as follows:
Safety Colleges – There are a good deal of academic institutions who have more flexible admissions standards. This is helpful, of course, because it ensures that most of those who apply are granted a place. It is good to have at least one safety school.
Probable Colleges – These colleges are in the ‘high probability of being accepted’ category. These are schools that your child favors and would have no problem attending. However, these colleges may not be his or her first choice of college. They are good schools but they are not on the top of the list for your child. There should be several of these options for your child to choose from.
Reach Colleges – These are colleges in which your child has a lesser chance of being accepted, but they are high on his or her list of desired colleges. The competition for these colleges is very high and the likelihood of getting a spot is lower than, of course, the probable or safety colleges. There should be at least one to two of these options for your child to consider.
Having colleges from all three groups can be important later in the process, as we will see later.
2) Make the Necessary Financial Adjustments In Advance
Being fully prepared makes all the difference in how much aid your child is granted and how much you will need out of pocket.
The best way to make this happen is to discuss the details with a knowledgeable funding advisor. They will have the information on the latest changes in legislation and how that may help or harm you. They will also know what the best strategies are and how you should position your money, your taxes, and even some major family purchases so that it has the best possible impact and provides the most options for your family during the college years.
Of course, no parent wants to dole out a lot of cash to put his or her child through school. A trusted professional advisor will know the best ways to keep more of your money right where you want it, but still be able to send your child to school without worry. The earlier you start, the better decisions you can make!
3) Play School Offers Against Each Other
This is a strategy that we help families use to potentially get more money for your child to attend a desired institution. It may not seem pleasant to haggle with a financial aid officer while pitting one school against the other in terms of aid packages, but it may end up benefiting your child greatly in the end… and we are able to make this process painless, professional, and effective with the information that will make a difference in the end decision!
Of course, this is a lot easier when we can play to an applicant’s strengths. It may or may not be a secret that schools reward students that excel, often regardless of their financial situation. If your child is strong academically, that can be posed that to the financial aid officers. Or, especially if your child has received a bigger aid package from another school (ideally a school of similar renown and ranking), we can help families to inform the financial aid office about these details and request for a similar or even more competitive package. This is remarkably effective when managed properly!
Working together with an experienced and insightful college funding professional can help families to make these types of important adjustments smoothly and effectively. It is a big help when parents begin the process as soon as possible. It is a much easier to plan and make these changes years in advance, than it is to work with families who start the process during the senior year of high school. We certainly can help the late starters, but the options are significantly more limited the later a family gets started with the process.
One of our finest teaching options for parents is known as our College Funding Workshop. These presentations offer first-hand details to the parents of college-bound students, as presented by excellent college funding professionals who are expert in this arena. These workshops are a great introduction to the college funding basics for parents.
While there is no admission fee for these workshops, we require an advance reservation. You can register online, or call us at 818.839.6600.
In addition to the workshops, we have also created a helpful written report that deals with similar important topics. This publication also delivers some of the most important information about college funding to parents of college bound high school students. We believe that this is crucial for knowledge for these families and hope that you will be interested in taking a look at it for yourself.
The title of our report is “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and we hear from many families who tout it as one of their go-to resources for their initial understanding of how to fund their child’s future college or university education. For your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College”, click here to download it!