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Preparing to Pay for College

Release Date:
2/8/2011 4:28 PM
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By Gil Rogers, Associate Director of Admissions

There is no doubt that the college application and financing process can be one of the most stressful times in your child’s life. Nothing is more difficult than going through the entire college search process, submitting applications, visiting all of those schools, and then falling short on the last piece … the tuition bill.

The costs associated with a degree in higher education can sometimes be overwhelming. Here are some tips to hopefully help you navigate the murky waters of the college scholarship, grant, and financing options available to you:

Don’t rule out applying to any school because of the price tag.
The total costs of attendance (tuition, room, board, fees) are laid out by colleges as a way to help you anticipate the total costs associated with the school. However, it is important to remember that many universities, particularly private schools like UNH, offer numerous merit-based scholarships that are awarded to deserving students. At UNH students may receive up to $20,000 in Presidential Scholarship funds in addition to numerous additional scholarships that may be added down the line.

Don’t think that the scholarship award is the only award.
Many families make the mistake of thinking that the only financial assistance they will receive is the scholarship that is mentioned in their acceptance packet. This typically is not the case. Students who meet the priority date of March 1 for completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) are considered for numerous other financial aid programs including, but not limited to, federal and university grant-in-aid, federal work study, and affordable student loan options backed by the federal government.

File a FAFSA!
The first “F” in “FAFSA” stands for “Free.” The only thing you lose is the time that it takes to complete the form. It is true that you may not qualify for some federally funded financial aid programs because of income, assets, etc. However, you may qualify for university-based grants that you otherwise would not be considered for without a FAFSA form. Go to http://fafsa.ed.gov for details and to get started.

Paying for college is going to take sacrifices and a little bit (OK, a lot) of work.
The hardest things many families go through when weighing the costs of education are the value of their investment vs. many luxuries in their everyday life. The recession has taught us that we can, when we choose to, make sacrifices of everyday comforts that can be defined as “excess.” Consider not stopping for that Starbucks Latte on your way to work and brew a pot of coffee at home instead. Buy reusable containers for your lunch instead of buying plastic bags. On that token … bring your lunch to work instead of going out. All of these are ways to save money that can be used to finance an education. Many families will take out larger student loans than they really have to in lieu of making these small sacrifices in their day-to-day life.

Another thing to remember is that college students are young, ambitious, and starving for independence. They are looking for ways to gather work experience to make their resume more attractive when they complete their degree program. Some families believe a student should not work while they are in school so they can concentrate on their studies. I challenge you to consider the benefit a student will have of being able to talk about how they managed their time (and a budget) while working on that stellar GPA during a job interview. Working at least part-time while in college is a great way to show independence and maturity to a prospective employer and a great way to get some cash in your pocket to pay for everyday expenses.

Last but certainly not least … take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

At UNH we host numerous webinars on special topics like Financial Aid Step-by-Step, Admissions and Financial Aid, and College and Financial Aid Planning. We encourage you to visit www.newhaven.edu/webinars and sign up for the date and time that is most convenient for you. We also have a wealth of resources at www.newhaven.edu/affordable, including links to scholarship search sites, interest-free payment plan options, and affordable student loan options. As always, you can call to speak with an Admissions Counselor at 203-932-7319, and your counselor will be happy to answer any of your questions.