May 1 is the day by which all college bound seniors must decide where to enroll in the fall of 2013. Making the final decision may not be easy unless you have done certain things in the year or two prior to spring of the senior year. In any case, most students are usually presented with at least two positive options.
So, how does one go about making an effective ‘no regrets’ decision…a decision that allows the entire family to win? The following five steps are a guide. Think about these even if you will not need to make such a decision now because you are not yet a senior or parent of one.
The overall goal is to integrate the admissions decision with financial considerations. That is particularly important when there is more than one college bound child in the household.
First … Make an objective evaluation of each financial aid award. Determine how much aid the college is awarding in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. Most colleges do not include adequate amounts in the cost of attendance (COA) to include personal expenses. These are books, supplies, personal sundries and transportation. If you have done a “Dry Run” with us prior to your student’s application you will see that we often add $3500 to $4500 to the COA. The direct expenses are the fixed billable costs, tuition, fees and room and board. You should too.
Keep in mind that college work-study is not a direct credit toward billable costs. Do not include that in your calculations. If there is a loan offer in the award (other than a Stafford or Perkins), do not include that either. Subtract all the other awards from your COA and you will close to knowing what the “real out of pocket cost” is for that college. Do this for each college and make an objective comparison.
Do not expect colleges to “negotiate” with you. That word does not exist in the financial aid lexicon. However, if you have special circumstances that were not fully explained to the financial office in the form of a letter after you filed your FAFSA and Profile, you may appeal or request a review now. If you are a client of ours we probably have already discussed the merits of an appeal.
You can call and ask the college what their specific guidelines and procedures are in handling such appeals. In any case, prepare to write a letter explaining the change in circumstances. (For steps 2 ~ 5 click here.)