Tools to Find a College (Pt. 2)
Submitted by Larry Frank Sr. on Thu, 01/30/2014 - 12:00pm
You and your prospective college student teen know what you want in a
college. Here in the second of two articles are sources for finding colleges
and, maybe more important, ways to pay for tuition.
Start with talking with career counselors at your teen’s high school; the
school website probably has a link to the counseling or career center.
These counselors know or can find out what qualifications different
colleges require, such as types of high school classes.
Also, attend programs your high school career-counseling center holds
during your kid’s junior year; begin as soon as possible after the start of
school. Starting this in your teen’s junior year also means you enter senior
year better informed.
Once you narrow your list of prospective colleges, ask those schools for
contact info of their regional representatives nearby.
These websites also help with the college search:
Bigfuture by the College Board. These twin sites help you find schools
based on your kid’s interests, education wants and test scores or by
Directory of colleges by state. This one-stop portal also includes
business, nursing and art and design schools, as well as community
Your hunt becomes easier if colleges look for your teen. The College
Board’s student search service allows colleges to see students they’re
interested in. More than 1,100 colleges use the service (free to
prospective students’ families) to look for students who match a range of
factors such as location, interests and intended major.
Pinpointing the most appropriate college means little unless you also find
a way to afford tuition and other costs.
In the past half century, college price tags rose about 7% annually,
nearly double the consumer price index during that same period. Though
hikes in college costs did slow in recent years, students’ families also
pay a larger chunk of costs, according to the College Board.
Get a better idea of a school’s tuition and fees by searching for “cost of
attendance” on the school’s website. Understand too that college
financial aid basically means a loan you or your kid must eventually
Good sites for financial aid information:
The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and
Transparency Center. In your kid’s last months of high school, get into
the details of what college will actually cost.
Going2College. Career options, planning advice and financial aid
sources are broken out by state.
The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship
Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). This program, cosponsored by the
College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corp., gives your teen a
chance to enter for scholarships.
U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site. Details
abound here on availability, qualifications, applications and managing
future loans (don’t forget to tell your kids about that last one), as does
general advice on preparing for college.
You also find a link here to the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA) site, as well as an aid-estimating tool to use before your
kid’s senior high school year. Beware: If you Google FAFSA, you most
likely get dot-com sites unrelated to this dot-gov, or official U.S.
Google for scholarships based on interests, academic study and the
college itself. Most colleges also offerwork-study programs that provide
part-time jobs for students to whittle education expenses. Sometimes
colleges also offer grants, or free money for education.
Receiving financial aid often hinges on your family’s financial need.
Your expected family contribution measures your family’s financial
strength, including taxed and untaxed income, assets and such benefits
as unemployment or Social Security and your family size and the number
of family members attending college in the same year.
Take advantage of education tax credits or deductions that cover college
expenses. Examples of such tax breaks include the American
Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
A financial advisor’s word to the wise: Do not shift your assets around to
try to qualify for more aid. Often you deplete or lock up money for later
college costs or your own retirement, usually with little increase in the
ultimate aid amount.
Good college searches depend on an age-old staple of all education:
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Larry R. Frank Sr., CFP, is a Registered Investment Adviser (California)
in Roseville, Calif. He is the author of the book, Wealth Odyssey. He has
an MBA with a finance concentration and B.S. cum laude in physics with
which he views the world of money dynamically. He has peer-reviewed
research published in the Journal of Financial Planning.
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