22 Feb Planning Ahead for College Decision Day
National College Decision Day is usually around May 1 for most colleges, although some may make extensions due to COVID backlogs. This is the day when high school seniors are finally, really, truly required to commit to a college.
Deadlines are helpful, but it is better if you select your preferred college sooner rather than later. You’ve got a high school graduation to plan, summer to enjoy with friends, and then college orientation and classes that usually begin in August. If you have not yet made your final choice, here are some points to consider:
- Make the List Manageable: Your student might be accepted at a number of great college choices, so it could be overwhelming to pick between so many appealing options. In reality, though, there are probably really only two or three at the top of the list. Make the “easy” choice now to eliminate those which are obviously out of your financial reach, don’t have the right emotional appeal for your student, or are simply too far away.
- Compare the Financials: Now, take a close look at the real cost of attending those remaining few colleges. Get out the financial aid award letters and figure out what they really mean in terms of scholarships, grants, work-study and loans. Make sure the aid package applies for your student’s entire college career. Add up all of the out-of-pocket costs for travel, room and board if your student does not stay in the dorms, cell and data plans, and personal/entertainment expenses. These could vary dramatically from one college to the next. Take into consideration any outside scholarships your student may have won. What you are trying to do here is get a solid handle on how much all this is really going to cost you, your student and your family.
- Consider the Cost of Student Loans: Student loans are not free – they are a cost to you and your family. If student loans will be needed, you have to look at future earning potential and assign payment responsibility. Compare the availability and repayment options for both federal and private student loan options. Understand the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized, and look at the reality of repaying possibly large-sized sums in four years. Discuss the repayment obligation very clearly with your student.
- Do Your Networking Thing: This is the modern social age, so take advantage of that opportunity to help in the college choice. Reach out to social media groups of already-admitted students, read reviews, and arrange chats with current students. Speak with others in your high school and local community who may be attending one of the colleges on your list.
- Stir In a Few Emotional Thoughts: Emotions should not usually be the top consideration, but you can bring them into the process after you’ve gone through the financial and educational reasons to attend each college. There might be some feeling or attribute that just makes one college stand out more than the others.
- Look to the Future: Do students graduate in a reasonable time from your course of study at this college? If so, do they then go on to grad school, or get high-paying jobs in your chosen profession? What amount of student loan debt will you have upon graduation, and will future earnings be able to cover your loan payments?
Once the College Decision is made, a deposit check will need to be written to save your student’s place in the class. If student loans are part of the overall plan, set a loan appointment with CFAA for April or May, so we can discuss your options.
Remember that CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and making the best choice for your family. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get 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.