This is the third in a series of monthly blog posts designed for members of the high school class of 2014, and excerpted from Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It highlights planning steps that you can take now to make your college application process easier and more effective.
When I talk with parents about their goals for their child’s college application process, I pose to them a series of statements:
College is expensive and
- We are prepared to cover all costs.
- We are planning to apply for need-based financial aid.
- We are specifically interested in colleges that offer merit scholarships.
- Cost of attendance will be a factor in where our child goes to college.
- We have discussed the role of finances in college choice with our child.
The answers to the first three statements help me to offer suggestions of colleges that might make financial sense to a family. The latter two statements are designed to encourage conversation.
As you undoubtedly know, there are a number of ways to finance a college education, most commonly,
grants or scholarships, loans, and self-help. At most colleges, the cost of educating a student for a
year is substantially more than the amount charged in tuition and fees. And yet, for most families, the
comprehensive cost at a private college exceeds an amount that they are able to pay. Fortunately, these
other financing tools help to fill some of the gap.
As you compile your tax paperwork this month, consider talking with your child about the financial
ramifications to the college search. I don’t recommend eliminating colleges from consideration based
solely on cost at this early stage. As a parent, there is nothing worse than dashing your child’s dreams.
At the same time, an honest discussion during the planning phase is far better than seeing the joy on a
child’s face after receiving an acceptance letter, and then dulling it with financial concerns of which he
or she was previously unaware.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.