The process of applying to college is confusing enough, it’s true. When you add into that equation figuring out how to finance it as well, things can get really overwhelming. There’s a lot of misinformation out there that gets repeated with well-intentions, but it’s high time we all cleared up a thing or two about securing financial aid for college.
Myth #1: The FAFSA is only for lower income families
There is no income cutoff to quality for federal student aid. The FAFSA is nothing to be afraid of, and you may qualify for more aid than you might think. Furthermore, the FAFSA is a required component of many scholarships, even some that are not need-based, so in order to maximize your chances for aid, submit it! It doesn’t take long, is not all that difficult, and will only help. For more information, visit the FAFSA website.
Myth #2: Private colleges are too expensive; state school is my only option
This one is tricky because the answer is different for every student. Here are a couple things to keep in mind and some suggestions for how to keep finances in perspective when choosing colleges to which you’ll apply. Private schools are often just as affordable as public schools. Consider this: ever been on campus at a private college? Was it filled with preppy rich kids in Ralph Lauren polo shirts? No. Was it filled with students hopelessly drowning in debt? Probably not. Private schools have to compete with the costs of state schools, thus, they often are able to offer more in scholarship money to students whom take the time and effort to apply.
Adding to the comparability of cost is the consideration of four-year graduation rates. Many state schools have lower four-year graduation rates. If you have to spend a fifth or a sixth year paying for tuition, books, and housing at a public school versus being able to graduate in four years at a private school, those costs get a whole lot closer to one another (plus you save a whole year of your life!). Four year graduation rates are really important to know before you sign up with a school.
Our suggestion? Turn the price tags over while you are in the college search stages. Make you initial list of schools of interest without worrying about price. Once you get closer to applying, use the Net Cost Calculators each school offers on it’s website, and add in a financial safety school to your list.
Myth #3: Saving for college means we won’t be able to get financial aid
Savings are only a very small part of the complicated formula used on the FAFSA to come up with your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). In fact, less than four percent of families applying for financial aid are penalized for their savings. Read more about this here.
Myth #4: Scholarships are like elusive unicorns—do they even exist?
Who gets these things anyway? There are billions of dollars in aid available for students each year, and a good chunk of that comes in the form of scholarships and grants. Many students benefit from this free money every year, and not just students with 4.0 GPAs and perfect SATs. There are scholarships out there for all types of students. The only tricky part is committing the time to finding the scholarships and putting together a stand out application. That takes work. My favorite scholarship search engine is scholarshipexperts.com. Check it out, and send me an email if you are looking for help getting started.