Good news – your student got accepted at a great college – yay!
Bad news – you just took a look at the financial aid offer and checked it against your bank account – yikes! Now what?
College application time is stressful for parents and students, but college acceptance time can be even more agonizing. That is the time when you begin getting letters of acceptance (and sometimes rejection) from colleges. It is also the time when the colleges make their financial aid offers based on the information submitted when you filed the FAFSA.
Financial aid offers contain information on federal, state and institutional financial aid eligibility, as well as federal work-study and federal student loan opportunities. Now, you can sit down as a family, look at the bank balance, and figure out exactly what your costs will be to attend each college. If there is one particular college that is high on the “want to attend” list, but low on the “we can afford this” list, here are some steps you can take:
- Appeal the offer: Each college has an appeals process, if your financial situation has changed or if the offer does not meet those from other colleges. Check out the website or admissions packet to determine what the process is, and follow the recommended procedures to state the grounds of your appeal and provide supporting documentation.
- Look at all ways to lower costs: It might be possible to afford the college if you really tighten the budget. Analyze each area such as living, transportation, food, books, and personal living expenses, and try to minimize those costs. Any additional income your student can earn during the year or on breaks can make a big budget difference, too.
- Rethink the second choice: Given the new financial information, the second choice college might suddenly look a lot more appealing. There can be huge differences between in-state and out-of-state costs, or one college might be more interested in somebody with your student’s exact qualifications. Really talk about the variances in your options, and discuss whether they are as insurmountable as you think. Consider the possibility of a transfer to the first option as a junior or senior to save some of the initial costs.
- Is a gap year a good idea? There are pros and cons to this option. The family can all pull together during the extra year, and save as much money as possible, which could dampen the impact of the out-of-pocket costs. But, there is no guarantee the same financial aid offer will still be available, especially in light of any new income that might have to be reported on subsequent financial aid applications. On the other hand, if there is the chance that family income might decline, a gap year could have a positive financial aid implication.
- Look into public service: There are several job categories where the government will forgive certain portions of federal student loan debt for taking jobs in certain high-need occupations or locations. There were significant administrative problems with this program in the past, but great strides were taken this year to address those concerns. If your student is going into one of these fields, the future loan forgiveness could offset the current financial squeeze.
- Military opportunities: ROTC scholarships can alleviate the entire college cost conundrum, in exchange for military service after graduation. The military has every type of career field available, including those in law, medicine, and engineering.
- Don’t forget scholarships: It might be time to do a deep dive into the scholarship pool. You could snare a really great scholarship that would eliminate all your financial worries.
CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing offers and making the best financial choices for your family. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session 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.