Have you ever felt like deciding which college your child will attend is like shopping for a used car? Overwhelming, full of hidden information, different terms for the same thing, and never the same process at two different places! Here is the good news - College prices much like cars are negotiable and much like buying a used car – those who are in the know often will get the best value for their money.
Let us lay out a roadmap to simplify the process for you and take the mystery out of the financial aid process. The first step in the process is to fill out the FAFSA, and sometimes the CSS too. It is scheduled to open by 31 Dec 2023. After that you will wait to get your financial aid package, which normally arrives sometime between Feb and May. You will want to think about this like the first offer on a car. Let’s talk about what it is.
How Much Will College Cost?
The financial aid package is what tells you how much it will cost to attend the college. Much like cars, there is the advertised cost, the discounts, and the price you pay. Also, like car dealerships no two colleges use the same format or even wording for all the costs. There are also all types of colleges, those that negotiate prices and those who don’t negotiate on price and have a waiting list to attend. No matter which types it is I would recommend appealing (read that as negotiating) the offered aid to see if you can get a better price.
Here is How to Get a Lower Price for College
So how do you do it? Well once you get a couple of financial aid packages in and start to target a specific school you will use the offers from the other schools as leverage to write letters of appeal for more financial aid. That is great but you are probably like I don’t even know what to say, and who should write it, and do I just send it to one school? Well, we have an example template we are happy to share with you that will help you with all these questions (Download the template here)! But some general guidelines are:
- Appeal to every school your child is willing to attend.
- You may need to go through more than one round of appeals.
- There should be a letter from the student and the parent.
- Make sure you understand the financial aid and merit aid awards.
- Are they one-year guaranteed money or four?
- Do they increase each year with inflation?
- What GPA do you have to maintain to renew the award each year?
- What is the graduation rate in four years from the school? (Fifth and subsequent years are often full price.)
When Should You Start the Process of Appealing a Financial Aid Award?
You want to start this process as soon as possible because you cannot commit to the school until it is done. If you do it is much like having signed the contract to buy a car and then negotiate the price – once they know they have you there is no incentive for them to negotiate anymore. As always, we are here to walk with you through the process!
Military Finances are Different
There is a pretty good chance you have GI Bill and that can help with college expenses too. That is one of the many ways an Active or Retired Senior Military Officer or NCO needs financial advice that takes these differences into account. That is why we think you should work with a Financial Planner or Advisor that deals with the differences every day. If you'd like to find out how we do that, use the button below to schedule a free initial consultation.