While an in-state university will have a lower sticker price, private universities are often much better at meeting a student’s financial need. If the student is accepted to such a school, the net cost could actually be much lower even though the sticker price is much higher.
The range is very large on what we’ve been able to save families from having to spend on college. The average is about $40,000 per student, but we’ve saved some families as much as $220,000 on a single student. Those numbers are based directly on discounts obtained from applying to the right schools, proper preparation and filing of financial aid forms, and follow-up financial aid appeals. Additional financial value comes in the form of time saved via our systems for decision making, assistance on financial aid forms, and in avoiding situations that could lead to unnecessary extra years spent in college.
There’s 2 types of financial aid: Need-based and merit-based. Some schools require need-based forms (like FAFSA) to be filed in order to qualify for merit awards. Also, students from families with ample ability to pay full price are sometimes admitted more readily or given an “incentive” scholarship in hopes of future endowment donations.
It is recommended to start getting a feel for nearby campuses as early as Freshman year of high school, with a goal of finding preferences for size, location (urban vs. rural), etc. Formal visits should not be done until a targeted list has been created. This avoids spending excess time and money visiting colleges that may not be a good fit or that may not be financially feasible. Visiting colleges while their classes are in full swing is always a better option than during summer, so that a “typical” environment at that school can be observed. April vacation of Junior year in high school is an ideal time for targeted college visits.
A good number is 7-10. While more than 10 is fairly unnecessary, you want to apply to enough schools with the hope that at least one will offer a strong financial aid package. Even if the best aid package is not from your first choice, you may be able to use it to leverage a better deal from the school(s) at the top of your list.
By definition, a “reach” school is not a good fit. A student that gets accepted to a “reach” school may have a difficult time building confidence throughout their college career if most of their peers are more academically inclined. Merit aid would also most likely be minimal. When enough schools are being applied to that are the right fit, a “safety” school would really only want to be considered if all the others are on the selective side. It’s a good idea to have at least one school on the list that has an acceptance rate greater than 75%.
This can work; however, this approach often leads to additional years to graduate, attending a school that is not necessarily a great fit, less chance at merit money, and sometimes greater difficulty getting into competitive programs. A much better approach is to identify a handful of occupations that you may end up enjoying, consider the majors that can lead to those careers, and only apply to the colleges and universities that offer your favorite 4 or 5 of those majors. This way you can apply with one of those majors selected, but you have the option of switching to another at the same school should you later decide that it’s a better fit.
With regard to savings strategies, the earlier the better. For most of our other services though, Sophomore year of high school is the ideal time to start.
Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so why should the strategy for reaching your goals? While our society presents some common challenges, every family has its own environment. Each family has unique members, with different goals, different views, and different resources. Instead of applying the same financial strategy to every family, Accolade Financial believes in helping individual families address society’s common challenges within the context of that family’s environment.
We help our clients achieve event-based goals such as going to college, creating a predictable stream of income for later in life, and being prepared for unexpected or inevitable events.
While the answers above address the most common needs, Accolade Financial can also meet with you to address your specific concerns and develop a plan that works for you.