Thinking About College: Financial Aid

As the parent of a high-school junior, one thing has been on my mind of late: college: which one, and how am I going to pay for it? Through my lunchtime reading I’ve come across a number of articles related to the subject, and so I thought I would collect them here (both for my reference and for any of my readers in a similar situation).

The first step, of course, is finding the right college. College Planning Associates (a group we’re working with) has some good blog posts on campus visits: when to visit, what to do during the visit, and questions to ask during a visit. The Macomb Patch also has a nice article on what parents need to think about in planning for college.

Paying for it is the hard part. CNBC has a nice post on five ways to cut the cost of college—certainly good ideas if they work for you. They also have a good post on the hunt for financial aid and the wide variety of aid options out there. The LA Times, in the article that prompted this post, has a nice article on how to read, interpret, and assess the aid letters once you receive them. Lastly, related to financial aid, is an aritlce from the Huffington Post on how people end up paying for college: 37% parent income and savings; 23% grants and scholarships; 14% student borrowing; 10% parent borrowing; 9% student income and savings; and 7% friends and relatives.

Lastly, there’s also a good article from the Univ. of Virginia on how financial need affects the college admission process in general. The basic question there is: should colleges ensure that a family can afford to send their child to four years at their college before they issue the acceptance, for too many individuals are accepted, and then discover midway through college they can no longer afford it. A lot of this is that families don’t understand the bottom line costs of attending college these days (which, I believe, is very different than when us parents went to college — my quarterly registration fee at UCLA was $234!).

As for us: the first round of college trips are in June: Tulane, Rhodes, Bellarmine, Washington University (St Louis); the second round is in August (University of Portland, Reed, and one I can’t remember). SATs and ACTs are scheduled, and our daughter’s AP workload is intense (but she loves it). Thus: we start exploring the financial so we’re ready this time next year when we get the aid letters.