May 1st – decision day for high school seniors to declare which college they will attend – has come and gone. Many parents are now faced with the stark reality of the first college invoice and, let’s face it, not everyone is feeling financially prepared. Even those who have saved to help defray the costs may be sticker shocked by inflation or much steeper fares than the budgeted in-state tuition. If you don’t quite have the required funds saved to cover college tuition, know that you are not alone and you do have options.
Negotiate. If your student is offered a merit scholarship or funds, know that it is 100% negotiable. Have your student ask for more before making a college decision. Let the college know that another university has a more generous package that is hard to turn down. Colleges want your student – let them compete for your child.
Consider a Community. To save thousands of dollars, have your child take a class or two over the summer at a community college. Community college offers a great opportunity for your child to hone their studying and time management skills as they settle into college life. Just make sure that these classes will be accepted by their desired universities. Have your child work with their college counselor or look to online resources such as Assist.org.
Borrow. Consider student loans as a way to help bridge the college funds gap. The operative word here is student. If your child needs a loan, have them take the loan. Rather than taking on the debt as your own, help them pay it off later if you can afford it. After all, you can take loans for college but you can’t take a loan for retirement.
Apply. There are thousands of scholarships available and likely plenty that are targeted to your student’s interests, background and circumstances. Remember, your child receives $0 of the scholarships they don’t apply for!
If college isn’t yet at the top of your list but you want help preparing for the inevitable, read our FAQ’s about saving for college and consider having your child help contribute. Summer jobs such as babysitting, tutoring, retail sales, etc. are all great ways for students to put money aside for their futures. Some parents find that matching income earned over the summer is a great way to help encourage students to work for spending money during the school year.