The following is a fictional conversation between a mother and her junior in high school daughter, but it may seem awfully familiar.
Mother: Alright kiddo, it’s time to start discussing college so we can figure out how we are going to pay for your education.
Student: But I’m not sure what I want to do or where I want to go, how am I supposed to pick a college?
Mother: How are you supposed to pick a college, how am I supposed to pay for a college? That is the real difficulty
Student: There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in America mother, this is impossible!
Well these two sure seem like they are on the right page, don’t they? If you have been through the college process then this will not come as much of a surprise, selecting and paying for a college is very important but very difficult.
While the student is stressed out trying to decide on a college, the mother is really focused on how to pay the roughly $100-200k bill for over four years.
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that this is a conversation that ideally would have taken place prior to the student’s junior year of high school. From a financial planning perspective, the mother is really in a crunch because she was unable to plan for college when her student was born or at least several years before attending college.
For many families, navigating these treacherous waters at the last moment is a reality and so many decisions need to be made still.
On the financial planning side, the mother needs to answer the following questions:
1. How much can I afford to pay for college?
2. How much can I afford to borrow for college or can I afford to borrow for college?
3. Am I eligible for financial aid (many families are even if they don’t know it)? How much financial aid is available through the government?
4. Am I eligible for financial aid from the college? Which college will provide my family with the most aid?
5. What kind of merit based or academic aid is available, if any?
6. When do I need to apply for loans and what is the interest rate? How much can my student borrow versus what I have to take out in loans?
These are just a few of the challenging questions on the financial planning side and this doesn’t even take into account the student’s input. The student needs to identify a school that fits academically, is the right size, distance from home and the college needs to have the right feel socially for he or she to thrive.
Although there are over 4,000 colleges and universities, finding the right fit for the student is far from easy, just as it is a discouraging challenge trying to devise a plan.
This circumstance screams for proper help and a college financial planner with the proper training and knowledge is an excellent resource to determine critical decisions in a short time period.
Or a referee could always work but that may not yield the resolution that the mother and student are looking for (at least in the long term)!