05 May 5 Questions to Ask Financial Aid Offices During Campus Visits
May brings the end of the school year for many students. As high school seniors graduate, juniors are rising to take their place. Rising seniors have many decisions to make throughout the next school year. It’s important that rising seniors and their families begin to gather the necessary information to make informed decisions about college applications. One of the best ways to gather information is by visiting college campuses and speaking to current students and the financial aid office. As you’re visiting college campuses this summer and fall…
Here’s our top 5 questions to ask financial aid offices:
#1: How much does it really cost to attend this college?
Most colleges have a published cost of attendance on their website or other materials. It’s important to still ask about costs above and beyond that listed amount. Think about whether your student will live on campus or commute and how that will impact your costs. This decision will also influence your meal plan choices. Don’t forget about book expenses and a “fun” budget for your student.
#2: What kind of financial aid do you offer?
Put together an understanding of the types of financial aid available. Does this school have work study opportunities? What are the loan options? Look into Pell Grants, merit-based scholarships, and other options the school may have, too. It’s important to understand what is free money and what needs to be paid back.
#3: What is a typical financial aid offer?
While the school can’t give you an answer about your particular situation until they see your completed FAFSA, they can tell you what typical students receives. This is another chance to ask about need-based and merit-based opportunities. Understanding financial aid terms gives you a better idea of what to expect and how to understand your own package.
#4: How long does the financial aid last?
Some colleges have a nice financial aid offer to motivate you to enroll as a freshman, but the package amount decreases for the sophomore year. Ask about the second year (and beyond) as well. Try to determine how many students drop out after the first year, and see how long it takes to graduate. If it takes longer than four years, does the financial support continue? It’s good to understand as many of the possibilities as you can for your student when it comes to finishing a degree.
#5: What are the job prospects from this college?
If your student is considering federal or private student loans to attend this college, you want to be sure they will have the financial wherewithal to repay them upon graduation. Ask the financial aid office how many students graduate with a job and what the average earning rate is. Again, while all situations differ, getting an idea of the end result is important, too.
Financial aid offices are here to help you navigate this new experience as a family. When visiting potential colleges, take the time to really speak with them and understand what’s ahead for you and your student.
Have more questions about financial aid?
My new book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro, helps readers understand the different types of college financial aid and answers questions you might not even know you have! It also provides insights into talking to your children about money at all different ages, even after college. Order now.