If you’re like the parents of most high school seniors, you’re probably on an emotional roller coaster right now. You’re no doubt thrilled at the college acceptance notices your child has received. However, you’re probably feeling worried too, as you fret over how to pay those hefty college bills.
Before the “decision day” rolls around—and you have to put down a deposit to reserve your child’s spot at his or her college of choice—there are several things you should know to ease the strain on your mind and your wallet. Here are four college secrets that parents should know.
1. The most prestigious school isn’t necessarily the ‘best’ one.
Although it’s exciting to have your son or daughter get accepted into a well-known school, recognize that a prestigious college may not be the ideal choice.
The ‘best’ school is actually the campus that offers the ‘best fit’ for your student academically, socially and financially.
Academically, your child should be well prepared for the educational climate of the chosen campus. It shouldn’t be a stretch for him or her to keep up with other students; nor should your offspring feel like an intellectual giant among his or her college peers. Socially, the campus should feel comfortable and inviting, allowing your child to envision living in that campus community and calling it home. Financially, the college should be affordable for your family’s budget, or it should provide enough free aid to make attendance possible, without driving your family into debt.
2. Private schools may not be as expensive as you think.
Don’t get scared off from a private college or university just because the sticker price for tuition is exorbitant. In order to boost their undergraduate enrollments, most private schools offer large tuition discounts, in the form of institutional grants and scholarships.
In its most recent Tuition Discounting Study, The National Association of College and University Business Officers found that 88.9% of college freshmen at private schools received institutional grants in the 2013-14 school year. The average tuition grant/discount covered 53.5% of tuition and fees.
3. You can negotiate the financial aid offer—or appeal it.
Unsatisfied with the financial aid package your child received from his or her top choice school? If you obtained a better offer elsewhere, fax or email it to your desired college. As you do that, explain that your child really wants to attend the school in question, but that with the present financial aid package, the college would be too costly. Sometimes, these two steps will help you nab more free aid.
Also, if your personal circumstances have changed considerably (divorce, job layoff or a disability), you should always notify the college’s financial aid office and ask for a “reconsideration” or “appeal” of the initial offer.
4. Your kid really will be OK.
The college selection process is harrowing. But I’ll bet you’ve been an involved parent and have done the best you can to get your son or daughter to this point.
So no matter where your child winds up, trust that he or she will be just fine – and will successfully transition into college life, and all that lies beyond it.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a New York Times bestselling author and nationally known personal finance expert. Her latest books are: College Secrets: How to Save Money, Cut College Costs and Graduate Debt Free, and College Secrets for Teens: Money-Saving Ideas for the Pre-College Years.