By Stephanie Miceli
On Monday, November 14, StudentAdvisor Editor-in-Chief Dean Tsouvalas joined Kim Carrigan of Fox25 Morning News to speak about reducing college costs. Now that application deadlines are approaching, the next step is figuring out how to finance your education. Here are some highlights from the show:
1. Take the PSAT your Junior year of high school.
Take the PSAT your junior year of high school to try to qualify for The National Merit Scholarship Program. The awards can be applied to any college or university to meet educational expenses. Check the criteria for merit scholarships at each school your child is interested in, and get them on the path to eligibility as early as possible.
2. Use the Rule of Thirds.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is thinking they have to save for an entire college education. It’s a good idea to pay for it in thirds: one-third from your savings , one-third through student loans, and the remaining third from scholarships. Research various college scholarship opportunities that are awarded to students with particular talents, interests and familial or physical characteristics – from music to public speaking, vegetarians to organ donors, thousands of scholarships are available for even the most unusual of applicants.
Also, get familiar with the types of loans, particularly federally subsidized versus federally unsubsidized. The government pays the interest on federally subsidized loans while you’re in school, so your loan doesn’t grow. These are typically granted to students with demonstrated financial need. Federally unsubsidized loans, which aren’t need-based, charge interest from the time the money is granted until the time it is paid off. These loans also give you the flexibility to not have to pay them back if you’re unemployed.
3. Consider additional opportunities to earn college credits.
If academically possible – and emotionally feasible – speak with your student about taking the maximum number of credits allowed each semester, or AP/IB classes if they are still in high school. By doing this, your child could conceivably graduate a semester or even a year early. This eliminates educational expenses, including tuition, housing – even laundry. Your child may even consider taking summer courses. Though this won’t save you much up front on the cost of the education, it saves a lot on the opportunity cost of not working, and under a year-round calendar, motivated students may complete their bachelor’s degrees in three years.
4. Perhaps a community college for the first year or two is the best choice.
Talk to your child about attending a community college for one or two years and then transferring to a four-year school. Tuition costs are substantially lower at community colleges and could be a great way to complete core classes. In considering this strategy, make sure that the credits are fully transferable to the next college and that there is sufficient course schedule availability to meet your requirements. Otherwise, you may wind up having to retake classes after transferring or taking longer than two years to complete your degree.
5. If your child is an upperclassman, explore off-campus housing options.
Many schools allow students to move off-campus after a certain amount of semesters. Rental options are sometimes cheaper than room and board costs, particularly when a few students can live together to split costs. Be sure to consider rent, utility, and transportation costs, and living expenses like Internet, cable, and furniture.
6. Explore buying or renting used books online.
Shopping for textbooks online can help you save over 40 percent off your college bookstore’s rates. Shop online and offline to find the best deal. With websites such as Amazon and bigwords.com – among others – offering significant discounts, you can easily save hundreds of dollars each semester.
7. Don’t miss the FAFSA Deadline!
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, gives you an estimate of how much federal assistance you qualify for, and how much state government and school-specific funding you could use as well. Check your state’s deadline, and file your FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible. Be aware of application mistakes such as spelling errors, entering inaccurate financial information, leaving fields blank, and forgetting to sign and date the application.
8. You can negotiate with the financial aid office.
Yes, this is possible, particularly if your financial situation has changed or the financial aid you were granted isn’t sufficient. If you have recently been laid off or have suddenly come into expensive medical bills, that could help your case. Be polite and calm, explain your situation clearly, and prove your case is worthy of reconsideration by bringing as much documentation as possible.