There is a new poll out by the College Board and the Art and Science Group that finds that people don’t understand financial aid when choosing a college. These are not people reading my blog, of course, since you all know that understanding financial aid is critical. Right?
The poll finds that many people still rule out particular colleges based on cost. As I have talked about many times, it is not the stated cost of the college that should be of concern to you. Your only concern should be what the college will cost your family. Don’t forget about financial aid whether it be need based or merit based.
The poll also found that most families do not use financial aid calculators to see approximately what they might have to pay for a college. Everyone planning on going to college should get a preliminary estimate early on in the process to better plan for how they will pay for college. My favorite college calculator for quick estimates is the expected family contribution calculator available at the College Board website. That lets you see your families estimated contribution for both those colleges that use the FAFSA only, the federal methodology, and for those colleges that also use the CSS PROFILE, the institutional methodology.
The last finding of the poll I want to comment on is the view of most people that the job of researching scholarships and completing the FAFSA are the most difficult parts of the college admissions process besides the college essays.
I can’t let that finding go without comment. Most of the money for college comes from the federal government and the colleges themselves. NOT outside scholarships. For the money from the colleges you need to research and understand how each college handles financial aid. Outside scholarships are the most helpful for those students whose family makes too much to be considered for financial aid. Don’t just assume your family fits into this category. Check it out at each college.
The FAFSA used to be fairly complicated to complete but the government has been working hard to simplify this document. It is much simpler now that is was 5 years ago. For most people it will take less than an hour to complete. You can also complete an early FAFSA and get an estimate of your expected family contribution by going to the FAFSA4Caster.
There are a number of other findings from the poll and I encourage everyone interested to view the poll results yourself.