How to Pick the College That’ll Give You the Best Financial Aid Package

More Free Money… Fewer Loans

Dear Parent,

In this installment, we’re going to tell you about something that may save you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on your child’s college education.

Most families take a completely “backwards” approach when searching for money for college.

Normally, the process goes something like this….

In the child’s junior (or even worse), senior year of high school, they start picking schools they may be interested in going to, and that they believe they can get into based on their grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, etc.

Many students pick a grouping of “safety” schools which they know they can get into, “middle of the range” schools which they have a good shot of getting into, and “reach” schools which they would love to attend, but have a slim chance of getting into.

The next step in the process is that the student starts requesting literature from all of these schools (usually towards the end of their junior year of high school or in the summer preceding their senior year).

Once they receive the literature, most families start planning weekend trips to visit one or more of the schools the student is interested in applying to.

This is how most students and families get a “feel” for each college campus, and determine if they would feel comfortable being a student there.

Just in case you haven’t noticed…

All Of This Traveling From Campus To Campus Costs You A Lot Of Time And Money.

It also happens to be the “wrong” way to do things if you want to be in control of the college selection process and get the maximum amount of financial aid from each school.

What most parents and students don’t understand is that…

Your Child Will Probably Be Accepted To Approximately 70% Of The Schools They Apply To!

Unless, of course, your child is a borderline student, and they’re applying to the Ivy League or the most competitive schools.

If your child is not applying only to reach schools or the Ivy League…

They Have A Good Shot At Getting Into Most Of The Schools They’re Applying To!

You see, it’s not like 10 or 15 years ago, when there were more students applying to college than there were available seats.

Today, most colleges are struggling to keep their doors open, and they need students (like your child) to help pay their bills.

It’s the old law of supply and demand, and today, the supply of available seats at colleges and universities is greater than the demand to get into these schools.

This is great news for parents.  This puts you in the driver’s seat if, and only if, you know how to take advantage of this trend.

You want to know the “right” way to look for colleges and universities for your child?

You do?  Good, then let’s continue on.

Instead of blindly picking schools purely based on academic criteria, or sports criteria, or because your friend or relative’s son loves a particular college, you must look at one other very important criteria…

Can This School Meet My Family’s Financial Need And Give Us More FREE Money And Fewer Loans?

Remember, your child will get into most of the schools he/she is applying to (unless they are reaching for the Ivy’s or the most competitive schools).

So the question is not, “Will my child get into this school?”  Instead, the right question to ask is, “Will this school be able to give me the money I will need to send my child there for the next 4 years?”

If you haven’t realized it yet – college is very expensive these days!

Even a state school can cost you $14,000 or more per year when you include tuition, fees, books, room and board, living expenses, etc.

A private university can easily run you $34,000-$50,000 per year and more!

And that’s just 1 year!  Remember, you have 3 more years to go after that.  And what about if your child wants to go to graduate school?

It’s definitely expensive no matter which way you slice it, but there are ways to minimize these costs.

One of the best ways to do this is by picking schools that historically have the best policies of giving financial aid.

A brief explanation of the financial aid process is necessary for us to explain this to you.

So, here we go.

Financial aid is awarded at each school based on a calculation of a family’s “financial need”.

Financial need is calculated by subtracting the Family Contribution (this is the minimum amount you will be expected to pay at ANY school) from the “Cost of Attendance” which includes tuition, fees, books, room and board, etc.

So, if a school costs $20,000 and the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT calculates your family contribution to be $10,000, your “need” at that school is $10,000.

It works like this:

$20,000 (Cost of Attendance)
– $10,000 (Family Contribution)
=$10,000 (Financial Need)

Financial need determines how much financial aid your family is eligible to receive.  However, just because your need is $10,000, does not mean you will be offered $10,000 at that school.

This is where picking schools that historically give the best financial aid packages come in.

You see some schools can meet 100% of your family’s financial need while others will only meet 20% or 30%.

The other thing you must know when picking schools is how much of the “need” they meet in “FREE” money, which you never have to pay back, and how much need they meet in “Self-Help” money, which includes loans that you do have to pay back.

By knowing each school’s ability to give financial aid, in advance, you can pick schools that you have the best chance of getting money from.

This puts you, instead of the schools, in control of the process.

By knowing, in advance, which of the schools can meet most of your need, and give you more FREE money and less loans, you will also save yourself the time, energy and hassle of applying to schools that will never be able to give you the money you need to send your child there.

This type of planning should be done as soon as possible before your child’s senior year of high school, so you don’t end up visiting and applying to colleges you will never be able to afford.

If you’re wondering how you can find out about this type of information, you can start by asking the financial aid officer at each school.  Some of them will be completely honest about their ability to give money, and others will keep very silent about these numbers.

The other option is to use the services of a college-funding consultant who maintains an updated version of these statistics on a computer database.

Whichever way you decide to do it, make sure you know each college’s statistics on meeting your financial need, and typically how much they give in FREE money versus Self-Help (i.e., loans and work study) before applying to them.

Once you know these numbers, you are in the driver’s seat, not the schools.

You can also save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money by not applying to or visiting schools that will never give you the money you need to send your child to their institution.

Also, parents with exceptionally high incomes ($250,000+) who will not qualify for need-based aid, need to pay close attention to this.  Certain colleges have what we call “Category 3” type money. The colleges will open up a whole other treasure chest for these parents if, and only if, they go through the system properly.  We’ve seen people with incomes in excess of $300,000 get between $10,000 – $20,000 per year in FREE money from the college their child was going to attend – simply because they knew the rules of the game!

Sincerely,
scottsig
Scott Weingold
College Planning Network

ScottScott Weingold has been ranked one of the top ten college funding advisors in the country. He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple” which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of Ohio-based College Planning Network, LLC, one of the nation’s largest and most reputable college and financial aid servicing centers. CPN is a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling and the Better Business Bureau.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational teleseminars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He’s been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.

Until next time,

Scott Weingold
Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com

 

Related Articles:

How to Find the School With the Best Financial Aid

How to Get Into an Elite Private College for Less Than a State School

How is Financial Aid Calculated?

How to Keep Your College Costs as Low as Possible

How to Negotiate the Best Deal on a College Education

 

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2 Comments

GerdaJanuary 21st, 2012 at 6:52 pm

If i don’t have money at all what should I do when Im applying for financial Aid

Cathy EbenJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Gerda, If you have little or no income and assets, then you are in a very good position to receive help with tuition through financial aid. By submitting a FAFSA to the colleges you may qualify for need-based aid. You can learn more about this by signing up for a free college funding workshop.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.