Any advice for parents on paying for college?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

The strongest advice I have for parents - and I am a parent who presently has a child in college - is to try to save from the very beginning. When my son was born, we had a financial adviser who helped us project the cost of college so that we would be able to save an adequate amount over time. That is particularly important with the lack of a middle class in our society today. Many parents would like to see their children awarded aid of some sort, but that doesn't always happen. Outside of tuition, if it's possible for one parent to work to help pay for tuition or incidentals, that's important as well. I have a transfer capability online between my account and my son's to help him manage his expenses (rather than giving him a set amount).

Cynthia Ferguson
Independent Educational Consultant In2College

When to apply to for aid

Every family should apply for financial aid using the FAFSA even though they think they may not qualify. Many colleges and universities use the information from the FAFSA to award institutional aid as well as federal and state aid. Do this as soon as possible after January 1st of your senior year as soon as you have the previous year's tax returns completed.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Taking the sting out of paying for college.

A general rule of thumb is the rule of thirds. One third of college costs should come from current income, one third from savings and one third from financial aid such a s grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Always have a financial safety school. This is generally a state school. Don't discount the idea of having your student spend two years at a local community college. They are much more affordable and most have transfer arrangements with state colleges and universities. Your student's degree will be from the university and you may have saved yourself a boat load of money during the first two years, where most students are taking basic courses no matter where they are at. Francine Schwartz, M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

College Costs

First of all, bring your son or daughter into the conversation about financing college. Set realistic expectations. Understand that many private colleges may be able to provide need-based or merit-based scholarships and that it is worth it to apply to both public and private schools. Make sure that a "financial safety" is included on the final college list. When the acceptances have arrived, carefully analyze the financial aid packages and compare and contrast the various types of aid offered. Do not take out private loans without carefully considering the terms of repayment.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

File your tax returns as early as possible!

Many parents wait until April to file their income tax returns. But, information from the tax returns is needed to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile forms. While you can complete the forms with estimated information, it will delay the process. Colleges also request copies of your tax returns, usually by March. Missing deadlines may mean there's no more aid at that school. Get your taxes done as early as you can so that you can get the financial aid process started. Getting actual, as opposed to, financial aid numbers sooner rather than later will allow you to plan better.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

1) Save early! 2) Take advantage of your child applying to colleges that they are overqualified for. These colleges are more likely to offer a lot more merit based aid and scholarships. 3) A lot of merit based aid is based on the SAT/ACT scores so preparing your child the best you can to take these tests would be helpful. 4) You never really pay the sticker price. A college that has a tution cost of $40,000 rarely ever has students pay the whole thing. These colleges are more likely than most to offer a lot of merit based aid. 5) Fill the FAFSA and any other financial forms correctly. A lot of people make errors on the FAFSA especially and this makes their EFC (expected family contribution) go way up. Make sure you find out how to fill it out correctly before you do. 6) Don't take out more than $8,000 in loans a year. The most anyone should have to pay back after college is $32,000. A good rule of thumb is that the starting salary one gets right out of college should be higher than the total number of loans they have to pay back. 7) Don't go to that dream school that you would pay any amount of money to go to because there a number of colleges just like it but cheaper

Jeana Robbins

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Please attend any financial aid seminars offered at your student's high school. These are typically very informative, and other audience members will most certainly ask questions that, when answered, will enhance your understanding of the processes and procedures involved in applying for grants, loans, etc. Some financial companies will send guest speakers to high schools offering free advice and assistance in hopes of gaining business in other areas of financial need. They may have excellent presentations for students/parents to further their knowledge and ability to pay for school.

Nina Sculler
Director College Prep

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Look for ways to save when paying. Some schools even offer rewards Visa and Mastercards that help pay for college, then use these cards to pay for gas, groceries, everytime you would normally use a credit card. See if there are different payment plans offered, that you can afford. Have the student do a work/study program or have the student work part-time to help pay expenses. Save money on car insurance by telling the insurance company that the insured driver is away at college and will not be driving the car. Use that savings to help pay for college (this is especially cost-effective in New Jersey where car insurance is excessively expensive)

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Tips for Managing Ballooning College Costs: 1. Graduation in Four Years or Else Pay attention to a school’s published graduation rate when searching for a good college match. With costs over $50,000 annually at many private institutions, four year graduation must be the plan from the beginning. 2. Consider Community College In the wake of rising costs, community colleges have positioned themselves to offer students a first-rate education at a reasonable cost. If community college isn't a full-time fit, consider taking required courses at a local community college in the summer and transferring the credits back to the four year institution. 3. Find the Best Financial Fit Families often become consumed with “getting into the best school.” But, a less selective school may be more likely to provide merit aid for a highly qualified candidate. Don’t leave money out of conversations about finding the right fit. 4. Be Wary of Costly Extra Experiences Paying to work? That is what internships amounts to at many schools where credit is offered for hands-on experience. Study abroad, internships, and community service trips round out a college experience, but at what cost? 5. Set Expectation for Student Contribution A too often untapped resource for funding a college education: the student. Many students in college work part-time, but the money is for “personal expenses.” Devise an income-based student contribution plan before your student chooses a school. Students should be financially invested in their education.

Renee Boone
The College Advisor

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Become familiar with the language of financial aid. These websites will help you understand the significance of COA, EFC and SAR and help you develop a time line for submitting forms. After reviewing the web pages, do not hesitate to speak with Financial Aid Officers at the colleges that most interest your child. Of course it is never too early to save for college so talk to a financial planner about 529 Plans and other savings vehicles. In addition to savings, there are parent and student loan opportunities that will help pay for college. Begin scholarship searches as early as 9th grade. Most high schools maintain binders or bulletin boards that highlight local, regional and national scholarship opportunities. Consider registering at Fastweb or other free scholarship search site, check your affiliates (employer, church, fraternal organization, union, etc.) for scholarships, read Paying for College by Greene and Greene and have your student take a look at Ben Kaplan's Scholarship Scouting Guide.