Now that the heavy-lifting is done on college applications and the students have had a bit of a break from sharing their innermost thoughts in college essays, it’s time to gear up and start searching for ways to pay for their dreams.
One of the biggest college admissions misconceptions that parents enjoy discovering is that families shouldn’t assume that they earn too much and that no money is available. To the contrary, depending on the college or university, it might end up being less expensive for your child to attend a private school with a price tag of over $50,000 than it is to attend your in-state public institution.
Students who are thoughtful and wisely apply to colleges that really fit their profile, and where they fit the colleges’ interests, also, may be pleasantly surprised by financial support offers heading their way through ‘Merit-based’ aid.
There are many reasons a particular college may want to motivate you to accept their acceptance, including your strong academic profile or your particular skills/abilities in athletics, music, leadership, volunteer work. Let’s start with the basics here. There are two entirely different pots of gold on college campuses:
1. Need-based money and 2. Merit-based money.
For need-based money, families MUST complete the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and for many colleges and universities another form called the CSS PROFILE. You can access the PROFILE through the College Board website at (www.collegeboard.org).
Aid for middle-class families:
Many colleges offer excellent financial aid, but some of the nation’s top universities actually have specific policies that guarantee middle-class families free tuition or even full-ride scholarships based on their income.
The following universities are considered among the most generous:
Students who have what it takes to be accepted academically to Harvard, and a variety of other well-endowed universities, will not be denied their opportunity to attend because of an inability to pay. Harvard’s website is also quick to point out that families earning more than $150,000 may still qualify for financial aid. Happily, the majority of less-selective colleges also offer significant merit aid.