As a high school junior you have had to make many adaptations to cope with a changing school environment during the year of the pandemic. Now you are worried about how you will apply to college and find financial aid if you can’t even visit any of the colleges you might want to attend.
At this point you should already have your college list narrowed down to about ten options. During spring break, or over the summer, you would normally be planning fun trips to visit these campuses in person. Now, however, that is simply not an option because of travel limitations and social distancing requirements. Fortunately most colleges have also had to adapt to life during COVID, and are much more adept at the virtual college introduction process.
To make these virtual college tours more productive, treat them just as you would an in-person visit. Don’t just drop in, but set a specific time for your visit. You can view some of the videos on the college’s website, but you also want to schedule some productive time with real representatives for virtual chats. You might talk to somebody from admissions, a freshman, and an advisor from your area of interest, but you also want to check in with the financial aid department. Here are some areas you want to cover during your virtual chat with financial aid:
- What does it typically cost to attend this college? Try to explore more than just the basic tuition, or room and board expenses, but think in bigger terms about travel, extracurricular expenses, living costs, and out-of-pocket expenses.
- What is the typical financial aid package for an incoming freshman? Every student is unique, and a definite answer cannot be provided until you complete the financial aid application forms later this year. Now, however, the financial aid office should be able to give you some general ideas.
- What is the typical cost to graduate? Ask whether freshman financial incentives extend throughout your entire college career. Some incentives may stop after the first year, or students may not typically graduate in four years, which may affect long-term financial aid.
- Are there other costs associated with specific opportunities? You might be interested in internship opportunities or a study abroad experience. Ask whether your financial aid package would be similar, or if you might end up paying more money out of your pocket for these educational excursions.
- What is the typical student loan amount? Try to find out how much debt the students typically incur to graduate from this college. Then look at your reasonable potential to find a job in your field, and earn an income which will be sufficient to cover that debt load.
Take good notes so you will be able to compare colleges after your virtual visit schedule is complete. The next step will be to talk to your parents about money and college, so you can make informed decisions as you go through the application process.
If you don’t get the impression that a particular college will step up in the financial aid arena, but you definitely want to go there, you can look for scholarships to help lessen the financial burden on your family. Over the course of three months, the CFAA Scholarship Program helps students locate, organize and apply to 60 personalized scholarship opportunities that could help fill any potential financial aid gap.
Another great way to start learning about financial aid and your specific prospects is a CFAA new client free strategy session. This gives us a chance to look at your individual situation, and coordinate your college search and financial aid timelines with information you receive during your virtual tours.
Your class really is setting some new parameters when it comes to applying to college. Take the extra steps needed to make sure you get all the information you need to make the right college choice and find the funds you need to help pay for college. For the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.