HomeArticlesFinancial Aid Myths and Misinformation

Dear Estelle. The stress and anxiety of completing the college applications and their submissions has almost come to an end. Now we’re ready to discuss the issue of financial aid and whether we can even afford to send her to her favorite schools should she be accepted. On the other hand, if schools see we need financial aid will they accept my daughter, regardless of her excellent qualifications?

Rosemary J., Smoky Hill High School parent

Your financial questions should have been discussed with your daughter prior to her applying to college.The mantra used to be that every prospective college student should apply wherever they would like because somehow money would be found to support them wherever they wished to attend. Sadly this type of thinking no longer prevails. Financial fit can be as important as academic fit. Since college tuition is primarily the responsibility of parents, saving as early as possible is the best rule. Many parents and grandparents create 529’s and other college savings accounts when a child is born.

There are many tools available online to determine the affordability and actual cost to parents of colleges. The most important one is the Net Price Calculator which all colleges and universities are required to make available to parents of prospective students on their websites. (Check out my website to read recent articles about the NPC.) Some are more effective than others and one of the best is located on the College Board website.

The sticker price of many schools range from $50,000 to $60,000 annually, a hefty amount for most families. However don’t despair! Many colleges are known to do tuition discounting to attract quality students. Often this is  given to B+/A- students who would make excellent additions to their campuses. Also called merit awards, these monies serve as a means of attracting students with excellent potential who might also be considering more selective schools.  Students should never underestimate the importance of maintaining quality academics. These discounts will be renewed annually if a student continues to earn good grades throughout college.

To answer your question about whether needing financial aid will make your daughter less appealing for admissions, schools ethically are supposed to be need-blind and not know whether a prospective student will require financial assistance.

Dear Estelle. We’ve been procrastinating about completing the FAFSA. It looks like so much work for such little reward, we doubt we’ll qualify for any aid. Your recent columns discussed the importance of applying for the FAFSA now.  If our son qualifies for a scholarship he could potentially attend his favorite college if accepted. We need your counsel on this issue because we know we earn too much money to qualify for financial aid.

SJ, parent, Denver

Many people ask that question! Parents insist they earn too much money and assume they won’t qualify for aid. If you weren’t planning to complete the FAFSA you might want to reconsider. Some colleges do require the FAFSA for institutional aid. Just to be sure, call the financial aid offices. Some colleges really do require the FAFSA and the CSS Profile too (found on the College Board website) for all scholarships, whether need-based or not.

There are additional reasons for completing it i.e. eligibility for need-based aid if your family’s circumstances should change, job loss or other unexpected life issues. If a student hasn’t initially completed the FAFSA, some colleges will not allow a student to apply in the next year or years if their situation changes. Filling out the FAFSA sometimes gives students access to other institutional loans even if the student is ineligible for need-based aid. Enough said about why filling out the FAFSA is prudent for all students and parents.

Dear Estelle. Our son is a superb athlete and has been told by his coaches he will probably be given an athletic scholarship.

CT, Denver

If your child is a senior and hasn’t ben recruited by D1 and D2 schools yet there is a strong possibility he won’t be receiving an athletic scholarship. Only 2% of high school athletes play sports at the college level. Good grades enhance an athlete’s chances of receiving a scholarship but it is important to understand that this opportunity is limited. D3 schools do not give out athletic scholarships so it’s important to explore other strategies for obtaining funding for college. Some students start college as athletes but discover that it’s not for them. Also, injuries happen.

Dear Estelle. We’ve heard there are millions of dollars of unclaimed scholarships each year. They are listed on websites, in books, and in our school counseling office. Surely some of our students must apply for these and receive them? 

Parent, Cherry Creek High School.

Yes, there are those scholarships out there but the majority of merit money comes from institutional aid that the colleges give to prospective students. It is more advantageous for students to spend their time studying and receiving the best possible grades and to have parents save money for their children long before they begin applying for college. Some local organizations, religious groups, and businesses give scholarships. Being resourceful can help identify these little jewels.

Here in Colorado, we have one of the most noteworthy full-ride scholarships, The Boettcher, which is given annually to 40 very talented seniors who must use it at a Colorado college or university.

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