Although we need to
discuss transcripts, college essays, and some other important college
admissions items, I want to jump ahead to the topic of paying for college
because this is a concern for so many. If you are worried about paying for
college, be aware that there are many ways to make it affordable.
In an attempt to fund
college, some parents focus on their child’s talent in hopes it will earn him a
scholarship. There are several issues with this, the first being that the child
may not want to play baseball or piano or dance every single day when he’s in
college. The second is these activities often dominate the student’s life
making it difficult to keep up with grades and almost impossible to discover
the passions and interests that will lead to his future career.
attempt to make college affordable by going to a community college for two
years and then transferring to a larger school. This isn’t always the best
course of action, as the biggest grants and discounts are offered to incoming
freshmen. Unless your child did not take college prep courses in high
school and scored below average on the SAT, community college is often not the
cheapest option available.
Here’s the truth:
College doesn’t have to break the bank. The sticker price isn’t the final
price. Even the most expensive schools can become quite affordable because of
the scholarships, grants, and discounts available to your child. Don’t let
price be the determining factor in applying to a college. Colleges want students—even
if they have to take less to get them.
There are three main
places to get money to pay for college: The federal government, the state
government, and the actual college your child will attend. There are thousands
of other scholarships out there as well, but they typically only award a
fractional amount. They may help, but they aren’t going to make a big
difference. Focus on the big three I mentioned because that’s where the big
government has money to give and money to loan. The less your family makes, or
the more children you have, the more money you get. Your child may be
awarded grants or work study money that he doesn’t have to pay back or he may
qualify for low interest loans.
When your child is a
senior, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA-
http://fafsa.gov) to claim your money! You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA for
most scholarship applications and any aid the school will offer as well. So
fill it out even if you think you make too much money. Colleges consider
incomes under $200,000 for need based scholarships—especially if you have
Most states offer a
scholarship funded by the state lottery. For example, Florida has Bright
Futures; Georgia has HOPE; Kentucky has KEES, Tennessee has TELS; and South
Carolina has LIFE. There are often rules about how and to whom this money is
awarded. In Georgia, the HOPE scholarship is not need based but is based on the
student’s grades and SAT score.
Most every college is
willing to discuss the price package they are offering to make it more
affordable. One elite private university revealed their average discounts,
which are likely similar to many other institutions. Here is what they
$3,000 for calling and asking for a
$2,000 for living out of state
$62 for every “A” on the transcript
$400 for every rigorous course on the
$1,800 for every excellent
$115 for every 10 points on the SAT
$425 for every point on the ACT
There are numerous
other criteria colleges use to award money to incoming freshman. Below are some
tips for negotiating and lowering your child’s tuition bill.
Be sure you know when
everything needs to be turned in. It’s hard to ask for something when you are
not showing the fortitude necessary to meet deadlines.
Don’t Call it
Colleges don’t like
to think of it as negotiating—which is adversarial. They like to think of it as
“making it work” for your child to attend their school. Kindly ask them to
reconsider the financial package they gave you.
The key to getting a
better deal is to be kind, calm, professional, and extremely polite. An angry
or emotional parent will do more harm than good. You want them to want your
child, right? If they don’t like you, that will reflect on your child.
Colleges are more
willing to offer money to those who truly are committed to their school. They
want to see that you love them as much as they love themselves. In fact, that’s
why some people use the Early Decision option—to show allegiance.
I’ve heard that many
colleges actually make a note of every single time you and your child contact
the school. Let them know they are your first choice, but that it also
must be financially feasible to attend. They’ll want you more if you want them
Reiterate your child’s
accomplishments, highlighting the reasons he would be an asset to the school.
Never neglect to brag on your child’s special unique qualities and great
character, personality, and achievements.
without threatening, let them know about the offers competing colleges have
made, explaining that your child would rather be at this school. Some colleges
actually have a policy to match other schools’ offers. Be prepared to show them
the package another college offered.
If your child has
been accepted at a public university with a lower tuition or has been offered a
scholarship, ask the school of choice if they can match that rate. Private
colleges are often happy to get some money from you rather than lose
Although FAFSA takes
many things into consideration, sometimes there are circumstances beyond FAFSA
that make it difficult for you to pay for your child’s college education. Are
you supporting an aging parent? Did you have a period of unemployment? Do you have
five kids or more? Colleges will take these special situations into
consideration when adjusting their tuition packages.
If your family makes
under $200,000 and your child is very bright (scored exceptionally well on the
SAT), you should seriously consider an elite school for your child. Schools
like Harvard and Stanford have a lot of money and they are required by law to
give it to students with family incomes below $200,000. They offer huge
discounts or free tuition and possibly free room and board, depending on your
For example: At
Stanford, if a family has an income of less than $100,000, the student will not
pay any tuition at all. Room and board is thrown in for students with family
incomes of less than $60,000. Again, if you have a larger than average number
of children or other special circumstances, you may get even more from these
Please know that you
don’t have to mortgage the house for your children to attend college! There are
many ways to make it affordable. Below is a blog post of some hidden ways to
get a free ride to certain schools. Although the article is old and some of the
information may be out of date, it can help get you started. Know this list isn’t
exhaustive and there are many other hidden opportunities if you’re willing to
search them out.
Many parents have
undue anxiety as they consider the expense of a four year college
education. It can be overwhelming when you’re focused only on the lump sum
peering at you from the college’s website. But don’t be discouraged! Remember,
the Lord has already planned where your child will attend college, and He is
able to provide exactly what is needed. Seek Him, asking Him to lead you to
creative options that will help save on college expenses. You may have to do
some hard work finding hidden money, but it will be worth it when you come to
the end of the journey and finally set your child on the path God has chosen
just for him!