Easter eggsWith respect to Passover and Easter this week, we felt it was an appropriate time to tell the college bound students of these United States, all about the 10 Commandments!

No, not THE 10 Commandments that Charleton Heston will be talking about this week.

Rather, ours are focused on guiding the college bound student and their family through the complex financial aid and admissions process known as “applying to college.”

The 10 Commandments of the College Decision Making process:

  • Start the process early  – preferably before November of the student’s junior year in high school.
  • Do not separate the college search from the financial portion of the process unless your resources are sufficient to cover the total four year cost.  Ultimately you can attend only one college and both factors will merge.
  • Be prepared to work hard to achieve optimum results.  Even after you have selected and enrolled in a college, the process will require maintenance.
  • Do not use “sticker price” as the guiding force in your search.
  • Avoid falling in love with only one or two colleges.  You want choices!
  • Use a balanced approach in assessing costs.  Remember there are tradeoffs between travel, tax strategies, financial aid packages and other cost factors.
  • Do not distort your search with mythical assumptions about college.  You will have to manage bias, emotions, facts, analysis and “the experts.”
  • Understand what you are gaining and losing when eliminating or adding colleges to your list.  You need to recognize how many quality colleges there are.  AVOID “BNP” (Brand Name Paralysis).
  • Students need to understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as the competitive nature of the process. Remember, everything “counts.”  Use sound decision making techniques.
  • Communicate among all “stakeholders.“  This process represents a $100,000 to $230,000 decision. (and that’s only the face value).  Don’t forget that parents (not just students) are entitled to life after college.

If you don’t follow these rules, you may end up with several smashed dreams (or eggs, like the picture above!) when end-game arrives and it turns out the student cannot attend their “dream” school that has instead become a financial “nightmare.”

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No Cash Flow?College bound high school Seniors are days away from hearing the final results from their applications for admission. For too many, however, addressing the cost of college and how to come up with that “nut” every year, has not been confronted. Until now (March/April of Senior year?!?!).

WAY TOO LATE!

While the process of learning how to pay for college and in turn, decide what a family budget will allow a family to spend on college for their student(s), should really be completed by the end of the Sophomore year of high school, families who have not addressed this issue need to know their options.

Yesterday, I attended a public event hosted by a local news radio station on “How to make college affordable” and was very disappointed in the type of information that the public is being given. At best, it came across as “college is expensive, start saving at birth!”

One gentleman asked a question about transparency in financial aid awards (hopeful that the panel would comment on the relatively new Financial Aid Shopping Sheet that many colleges have agreed to use. Unfortunately, the audience was given a response from both a public and private university that went on tangents that never even touched on what the question asked for. Granted, some of the panelists had a “past life” as politicians and could certainly be considered today as politicians when serving  as university administrators.

I know why politicians don’t answer “yes” or “no” questions with a “yes” or “no” – for fear their answers will be twisted by the press writing the story. But why should colleges be allowed to skirt the issue in the same manner?

Colleges are still doing a disservice to families when they don’t articulate accurate cost of attendance numbers to perspective and current students.

To be “in charge” as a family… make sure the student and family are planning for the financial aspects of paying for college before the Sophomore year of high school is complete. Your ducks must be all in a row by the time Junior year of high school rolls around!

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College Visits Need To Include A Stop At Financial Aid

February 28, 2014

Tweet Tweet   Your high school Junior is in the midst of visiting colleges at this time of the year. Well, at least they should be!  The Financial Aid Office is essential. When visiting campuses around the country, students tend to gravitate toward the Admissions office, cafeteria, library (ABC University has 2.5 Billion volumes of […]

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