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Creating a College List That Makes Financial Sense

Building a college list can be complicated, but if it is approached strategically, using readily available tools, it can be done in a financially smart way right from the beginning.

Building a college list

Hi, Scholarship Searchers!

I was talking to a group of 8th graders the other day and one of them told me that she wanted to go to Harvard because it was a famous university. 

I love how she was thinking ahead to college, but when I asked if she knew where Harvard was located, she had no idea.

Building a college list can be complicated, but if it is approached strategically, using readily available tools, it can be done in a financially smart way right from the beginning.

Becoming familiar with terms such as safety schools, reach schools, and target schools is a great first step toward building a college list. Learning to use free tools such as net price calculators (NPC) and the FAFSA4caster is imperative when building a college list that is affordable. 

College Parenting Expert, Wendy David-Gaines, shares how money should influence college list building for students and their parents and I highly recommend her tips for anyone in the college planning process.

MONEY INFLUENCES COLLEGE CHOICES FROM THE START

As the college-bound and their parents start the college process, they will find money plays a huge role every step of the way. It is heart-wrenching when a student puts in so much effort, gets an offer for admission to a school he wants to attend, and must turn it down because it isn’t affordable. That’s why it’s so important for families to get reliable financial information to help form a great college list from the beginning.

College Lists should include financial safety schools. Traditionally, there are three categories of schools. Safety schools are those where students exceed admission requirements and are most likely to be offered admission. Reach schools are those where students do not fulfill all requirements as compared to other applicants but they really want to attend. Target or match schools are those where students meet all admission criteria.

Families struggling with the reality that college is costly and those costs continue to rise are wise to have the student include affordable financial safety schools in each category of their college list. Use online calculators to minimize college cost surprises and help get a handle on college financial planning.

Use FAFSA4caster, the federal calculator, to estimate EFC (expected family contribution) and see what federal financial aid the student qualifies for.

Every school is now required to have a net price calculator (NPC) on its website. Net price is the difference between the “sticker” price (full cost) to attend a particular college, minus any grants and scholarships students may be eligible for. Note that institutional aid may be awarded based on those characteristics the school wants for its incoming class. For example, more merit aid may go to a student with a particular interest, accomplishment, major, or talent that is lacking in most of that year’s applicant pool. Since this information is very difficult to predict and the criteria on the NPC varies from school to school, take it as a very rough estimate.

Students should be happy to attend any of the schools on their final college list because each will provide desired academic and extracurricular experiences in a place that will also help them graduate on time. When they receive multiple acceptances, families can compare to see if a college is a good deal educationally and financially.

Compare College Costs

FREE TOOL: Find affordable colleges. Compare tuitions for all of the colleges on your list. CLICK HERE

Want to know what the hidden college costs for families are?

Go to http://www.pocsmom.com/POCS_COA.html

Have you or your student started a college list?

Building a College List

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