During your student’s junior year, visiting college campuses is one of the highlights in the college application process. College visits are the best way to truly understand the vibe of each school. It’s also a great time to have your questions answered. During these visits, there’s a lot to do: see housing, meet current students, explore campus, and look at the city the school is in. But, it’s important to remember that during these fun moments, you and your student need to determine if this is the right school for them. A perfect fit isn’t just based on campus life. It’s also rooted in the costs financially. Each college that your student considers needs to be reviewed financially. During your campus visit, make a stop at the financial aid office. Whether or not you think you’ll qualify for financial aid, it’s worthwhile to chat with the financial aid office. Here’s four important questions to ask financial aid offices during college visits!
#1: Is financial aid need-based or merit-based?
Financial aid is not always based on your financial need; sometimes it is based on your academic merits. Understanding which method the school offers is important. Need-based financial aid reflects your family’s financial position. If your family is not wealthy, it makes sense to look at need-based institutions. Merit-based means that money is awarded based on the applicant’s skill set, and financial need is not taken into consideration. If you have strong academic, athletic, or artistic skills, it might be more effective to search for merit-based scholarships or grants. Knowing the school’s system and your family’s situation is key when determining potential financial aid.
#2: What are your deadlines for financial aid applications?
Throughout the college admissions process, there are many deadlines floating around. Ask the financial aid office to clarify their specific timelines so that you don’t miss a single one. Once you know the deadlines, it’s important to submit paperwork and required documents at least two weeks ahead of the cut off.
#3: What are your financial aid particulars?
Your family needs to understand the actual reality of financial aid. Determine how many students actually receive financial aid – and how much. It’s important to also determine how many years they can receive aid. While you’re in the financial aid office, it’s worth asking how many students actually graduate and find jobs in their related fields. Don’t be afraid to ask about pay, either. Your student needs to understand earning potential vs. loan payment needs. This may sound like a lot of questions but it’s necessary to determine how much financial aid you might truthfully receive and be able to pay back.
#4: What else can I do to help with college costs?
Sometimes the financial aid office is aware of additional opportunities that could change the bottom line for your family. They may know of job opportunities, scholarships, or other important ways to bring in money to help your student. It never hurts to ask!
College visits are about so much more than just finding out if you like the campus you’re visiting. Take the time to speak with students, professors, and most importantly: the financial aid office. All of the information you learn during your visit will help you make a more informed decision as you begin the college admissions process.
Who Are We?
CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule 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 bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.
Learn more about paying for college in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro, which also contains information on completing the FAFSA, applying for financial aid, saving for college, and repaying student loans. Order it now and learn how to get more actionable data out of college visits.