It's tempting to think that our goal is to get our children in to college. No, no! Our goal is that our children can get in AND afford to go to college. Getting admitted is only part of the problem!
Lots of parents find themselves in this situation at this time of year - they know the child is admitted, but they don't know how they will pay for it. Part of the problem is that scholarships come in waves, not all at once. But the other problem is that colleges don't really know who wants or needs the money, and which families are plenty happy to pay any exorbitant amount.
For more help in earning scholarships, check out my Coffee Break Book, Getting the Big Scholarships.
Here ideas to help you get more scholarship money once you've gotten in, done the math, and come up short financially.
1. Parents Contacts the College
Contact the college directly and explain the situation. "This is my son's dream college, but we are unable to afford to send him there without additional financial aid. Are there other scholarships he can apply to, to bring down the cost of tuition?" Or maybe this, "This is our first choice college, and I would hate to disappoint my daughter, but we have other children to consider, not just one. We simply can't afford this college, no matter how much we love it. How can we get more scholarship money so she can attend your school?" You can contact the financial aid office and/or the admission adviser you have been working with. You might be surprised at what they are able to do.
2. Student Contacts the College
Have your teen contact the college as well, with the same basic message. Your child can explain the situation from his perspective "You are my first choice college but my parents say they can't afford to let me attend. Are there other scholarships available?"
3. Retake the SAT® or ACT®
Find out if taking the SAT or ACT test again will help. Some colleges will Super Score to increase scholarships when the student takes the test again. Even if they don't, a better score could increase scholarships..One Gold Care Club member's daughter was only 10 points away on the SAT from the number she needed to get $2000 more in scholarships per year. Of course, that would mean $8,000 over the four years of college. Because her daughter took the test just one more time, and because she studied, and tried to increase her score, it translated into big bucks. That mom also asked for more money, as I'm suggesting that you do, and they awarded her another $2000 per year. That means her letter to the college was worth $8000 in her pocket! One letter = $8000. One morning test = $8,000. Total in new scholarship money = $16,000.
4. Contact Other Colleges
If you simply can't afford the price they offer per year, continue working with other colleges to find an option that may be more affordable. Most of the money you need will be coming from the college directly. If they don't give you the financial aid you need for your child to attend college, then she will need to attend a different college that is more affordable. For that reason, make sure that you are in contact with other colleges where he CAN afford to do, so that if this one doesn't come up with more money, he can still go to college in the fall.
5. Find Private Scholarships
In the meantime, while you are reaching out to his #1 college, and cultivating other colleges that may be affordable, search for private scholarships. Private scholarships are offered by companies, so they can be used at ANY college. Your child can use the experience for English credit for the remainder of the year. You would stop all other English curriculum, and instead find and write essays for scholarship applications for the rest of the year. To learn more about that, read my short Coffee Break Book, College Scholarships for High School Credit: Learn and Earn With This Two-for-One Strategy.
6. Shorten Time in College
You can also look up the CLEP® Policy for your #1 college, and see if some CLEP® tests could shorten the time spent in college. I would only suggest this if you know it will help you, but if taking a few tests can eliminate a whole year of college, then you're getting 25% off the cost of college. To find their policy, search the full name of the university plus the words "credit by examination." This short Coffee Break Book explains how to take and pass CLEP® exams right now, How to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and Eliminate Debt.
7. Carefully Evaluate Debt
Be careful about debt for you and your child. Carefully examine your cost out of pocket for each college. Parents should be saving for retirement, not financing college for their children. Our children will graduate college and want to marry and find a home, so college debt can put that plan off for ten years or more. If you do finance college, make sure it's a reasonable amount. Here is a simple way to look at it. How much could your child repay if they lived at home for a year after college and worked full time at McDonalds for one year? That's your worst case scenario. Now, everyone has their own views on how much debt is acceptable. I don't recommend going into debt for college.
8. Beware of Cosigning Loans
You may be asked to cosign a loan for your child. I looked at what scripture said, and it was pretty clear that I was not to cosign a loan for my children. In case you're interested, I was looking at these verses: Proverbs 6:1-3 and Proverbs 17:18. Most financial advisers do not recommend cosigning loans for college, as you will be financially liable should your child fail to pay the loan back for any reason - and that can put your home and retirement plans at risk. Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett all agree. Don't lend money to your child with the expectation it will be given back.
9. Ask Again
You can ask the colleges again. There are a lot of other parents out there in this position. Many, like you, decide they simply can't afford the cost of college, and decline admission and the scholarships that were awarded. That frees up some money - the college is no longer planning to give that money to the person who declined admission! So that's when they may have more financial aid available for your student. After the National Candidate Reply Date of May 1st, more money may be available if you ask for it. You can also ask relatives and loved ones. Sometimes a grandparent, ex-spouse, or rich uncle has been saving money for college and will provide financial assistance if asked.
Hopefully you will be able to avoid this crisis by "clipping college coupons" during junior year. Learn more about that by taking my free recorded class, Super Scholarships for Humble Homeschoolers.
Have any of your kids had success earning scholarships? If so, please leave your BEST tip in the comments below. My goal is to have a bunch of great ideas for my readers by the end of the week!
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Don't look at the sticker price of a private college. My son was offered scholarships from 2 private universities and both beat the state schools price because they had so many scholarships for this and that. Another idea is that some schools offer tuition remission. There are lists of schools where they will reciprocate, so if mom or dad works at one school, their kid can get free tuition at another school on the list. I work in an admissions office, and if a student calls in saying it is too expensive, we go through a process of filling out a form and most often give them another scholarship. There also might be scholarships in other departments that are not part of admissions. Ask for what else could be applied for to catch these. Also, for sophomore year in the future, a student can apply to be an RA (resident assistant). This often pays for room and board, plus some tuition and spending money.