Admit it. When applying to colleges and universities, families will discuss almost anything: core curriculum, co-ed dormitories, cafeterias with grass-fed beef options. The most difficult subject for most families is money. The price of an education is often one of the biggest expenses a family will undertake. According to a recent study done by Cappex, Two-thirds of students are concerned about the debt an education could incur. We are skilled at worry but we are not so skilled at discussing financial planning.
The majority of seniors only find out the total cost upon receiving their admission letter and financial aid package. Coming in the late spring, this gives family little time to make a sound decision before May1 enrollment deadlines. Crisp Consulting + Coaching believes you shouldn’t wait to financially plan for your college education and has three strategies for success.
Don’t wait to know the numbers. Financial planning can start with the college search. During this process, examine the full cost of the college. This includes tuition, room and board, book costs and traveling expenses. A realistic version of these costs will need guidance as many private schools have large endowments that make their actual costs much less than a sticker price. An initial search can be aided with two tools from The College Board: The College Cost Calculator and The College Finance Calculator.
Don’t wait to fill out the forms. The Free Application for Financial Student Aid, or FAFSA, takes submissions from January 1 until June 30 of the enrollment year. Submit these forms early. Some schools work on a “first come, first served” basis and have priority deadlines of January 20. FAFSA provides a Web Worksheet that can prepare you for the application process.
Don’t wait to ask for help. Ask colleges for a Financial Pre-Read. Most offices of admission and financial aid will provide families with an estimate of expected assistance. The school will ask for the student’s grade point average, test scores if applicable, and community activities along with targeted information about family finance. This is only an estimate but a useful tool for identifying a school for financial fit. Only ask a college’s financial aid office for a financial pre-read in the late spring of the junior year or early fall of the senior year. The office will be too involved with admission in the late fall and winter compiling financial aid packages for freshmen or returning students.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant working with families in Asheville, Charleston, and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.