Figuring out what college is going to cost and how to pay for it is not straightforward for most families. However, there are some things that can be done to attempt to stay informed and reduce the cost:
- Research how much different schools would likely cost your family (“sticker price” of the college minus financial aid & scholarships) by comparing them on collegescorecare.ed.gov and completing the Net Price Calculator found on every college’s website.
- Plan to apply to at least 3 to 5 colleges including at least one PA State System School (ex. Lock Haven, IUP, Clarion, etc.). Applying to different types of schools can increase your range of financial options.
- Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the Pennsylvania State Grant Application, even if you think you might not qualify for aid.
- Once you are accepted to a college, read through your financial aid packages carefully to understand how much you never have to pay (grants and scholarships), have to pay in the future (loans), and have to pay now out-of pocket. Feel free to set up a meeting with the College and Career Counselor to compare your packages.
- Negotiate your financial aid packages! For some schools what they offer is final but others may be able to find you additional sources of aid if your family has especially large financial need or if you are a particularly desirable student. It never hurts to ask!
- Make (at least) a 4-year plan for paying for college. You don’t want to be stuck in a bind your second year because you didn’t plan how you were going to find the money for payments.
- Tools like mysmartborrowing.org can also give you a glimpse of what your loan payments will be once your graduate. The rule-of-thumb is that you don’t want to borrow more to pay for college then you are going to make the first year after you graduate
- APPLY TO LOCAL SCHOLARSHIPS. While some students have success with national scholarship applications, most students are more successful in the local scholarship process where there is less competition. However, it is never good to assume that you will be able to cover most or even some of your college costs from local scholarship