College decision-making and financial considerations

decision makingThese are the decision-making months that try the souls of both parents and seniors. While students wait for the thick envelopes from Admissions Departments, parents are hoping for even thicker envelopes from Financial Aid offices. Most colleges will be sending out these financial awards – grants, loans and scholarships – during the month of March. In March and April colleges also ramp up the competition for your student by phoning or by sending letters from Alumni, tee shirts, lanyards and bumper stickers. With any luck they will also be sending additional offers of financial aid!

Deadlines

Most colleges and universities grant you until May 1st to make your decision and to send in your housing deposit. Check closely for your deadline in the acceptance letters your student received. Try to have your student make his/her decision during the month of April. You don’t want to be stuck sending multiple, non-refundable housing deposits because your student hasn’t yet made a decision.

While your student may be concerned about where his or her friends plan to attend school, your job is to bring a little financial reality into the picture. This is the perfect time to review finances, both yours and your student’s, and to review the guidelines that you set when you started the college search process. My older son graduated in 4.5 years from a state school in December 2006. He is now paying back $30,000 in educational loans. While this is a modest loan by many standards, it is scary for a 22 year old in his first job to discover that he must pay $300 per month in loans for the next 10 years.

Preparing For Your Tuition Bill

Getting ready to take on your tuition bill doesn’t have to be hard; if you follow these simple outline steps, it won’t be. These are key steps to take when you’re planning how to cover the cost of attendance.

Why should I clear all remaining balances before leaving for the summer?

If you’re a returning college student, failure to close out an account balance could strip you of student status at your school. Don’t make the mistake of not paying off your student account; see below for more details about lingering account balances.

As the semester winds down, many students find that they still owe their school money. Balances on student accounts accrue for various reasons – unpaid tuition, higher meal

costs than budgeted, miscellaneous charges, etc. – but no matter the reason it is important for students to clear these charges.

In some cases, student loans can be used to cover these balances. This is most straightforward if the balances are from the current semester or academic year. So, before the academic year officially ends, if you think student loans might be appropriate to cover your balances, you shouldn’t delay.

Planning to study abroad

studying internationalGo to college and travel the world? College requirements and opportunities have changed dramatically since the days when we parents slaved over textbooks, typing papers on our trusty manual typewriters. International education and global networking were concepts that were not part of our vocabulary back in the seventies. Today’s students are encouraged to become citizens of the world, to live overseas as a local, and, if possible, to learn the native languages of the countries they visit. Before your student spends a semester abroad, he/she must select a program with credits that transfer and he needs to determine the best time of year to study abroad.

Let’s start with the most practical concern first – making sure that your child receives CREDIT for the overseas experience. Universities are understandably proud of their high standards; as a result they are cautious in granting credit to overseas programs. The Study Abroad office will help your child to investigate the vast program offerings available through their own branch campus overseas or at foreign universities with whom they have reciprocal agreements. It is absolutely IMPERATIVE that your child contacts this office before applying to study abroad! Not only can this office steer your student to programs that will enhance his/her major but they will present your child with programs that receive full university credit. You need to ensure before your child hops on the plane that your money, and your child’s time, is not wasted on a program that the university does not recognize. To do otherwise may result in additional semesters, and costs, since your student will have to spend more time at the home university “making up” the time spent overseas.

There are three major advantages to studying at the overseas branch campus of your home university. First of all, the credits will transfer without penalty; secondly there is usually no additional cost for tuition. Besides maintaining the tuition costs that are already included in your budget, a branch campus of the “home” university will accept scholarships that your student currently receives. The third advantage is the strong support system the university already has in place for students. On-site university advisors, home stays in local apartments and classes in English are often the norm for these campuses. If your student does not have a foreign language requirement for his or her major, this may be an especially attractive option.

Once your student has decided on a university and a program, the next decision is to determine the time frame. Should the overseas study last a summer, a semester or a full year? Your student will need to speak with someone in the Dean’s Office of their major, and minor, to ensure that all university requirements are met and that the length of the program causes minimal disruption to his sequence of required courses. Engineering students may be able to do a co-operative experience (aka co-op) with an international company while Education majors may be able to student teach overseas. My older son spent the summer after his junior year in Italy. He completed fourth year Italian (his minor) and received a full year’s credit by taking three classes per day during the eight week term in Urbino.

Creating a personal budget

In this new video, Don Betterton, financial aid expert and SimpleTuition advisor addresses the importance of having a personal budget. As a college student, it’s very easy to be excited by your new environment and lose track of your personal spending. In fact, overspending is the most common mistake made by college students, especially freshmen. If you can learn to keep your discretionary spending under control and budget yourself throughout the semester, you’ll save money and avoid dangerously low bank account balances.

The biggest student financial fear? Having to pay it all back.

A group of college students discuss with Don Betterton the things that worry them most about borrowing for college.

Are student loans an inevitable part of the college experience?

SimpleTuition asked a group of college students what their feelings about student loans and borrowing for college were. Check the video out to hear their comments and insights!

 

Understanding College Costs