It’s back: the extended series about navigating (surviving!) the campaign for college admissions. We’re entering the last lap. Sadly, when the Newtown shootings occurred, it became incumbent on me to respond to this tragedy and its aftermath on numerous levels. Hence, the college series was pre-empted. But now it’s time to wrap things up, this week and next.
I referred to this process a second way: “ten steps leading to college.” To recap: We’ve covered touring campuses, selecting colleges, setting timelines, filing applications, writing essays, taking tests, preparing for interviews, and getting letters of recommendation. We’re up to the one many find most intimidating: applying for financial aid. Have you seen that bumper sticker? “All my kids go to college-- and so does all my money.”
Some experts believe this should be the first step, not the last. With sticker prices pushing $60,000, your family needs a sit-down to decide what is affordable. List all costs: tuition, room, board, books, fees, spending money, and travel.
At the beginning of the series, I recommended that the very first decision to make is whether colleges being considered must be within a six-hour radius of home. Otherwise, you’re looking at plane fares at some of the most expensive travel times. Those costs can significantly jack-up the bottom line.
How much can your family ante up before making a reservation in the poor house? During my radio broadcasts, I joked about running garage sales in front of the Broadcast Center to help defray the costs. But this is very serious business.
Now it’s time to look at the supply side. To repeat: Keep in mind what your family can reasonably afford each year. Investigate the following sources, which will help reconcile the difference:
(1) College Scholarships: Find out what financial aid each college makes available. Just remember that you will have to jump through hoops to apply for these grants-- and there is no guarantee that you will receive any. But schools vary considerably as to what they award. Scholarships fall into numerous categories such as “merit,” “music,” and “athletic” just to name a few.