Thursday, March 9, 2017

Saving on the Cost of College Tuition

I have talked to quite a few people about college tuition, scholarships, etc. and have found most people are not aware of a lot of ways to reduce the cost of college tuition.   While I don't intend to share the normal tips that you have probably heard, I am focusing on some things you might not have considered and were definitely not shared by my daughters' high school counselors and teachers.   I hope you find this information helpful.

Start the process the moment your kid is enrolled in their first high school credit course (probably in middle school).

1.   Get the Highest possible GPA and SAT/ACT Scores possible.

Colleges are basically buying your kid's SAT scores and GPA to raise their national rankings.  The higher their numbers, the better chances they have at getting a scholarship.   Some colleges like the University of Mississippi clearly outline what numbers they require and how much money they give you for those scores/GPA.   Check college scholarship pages for this information for the colleges they are applying to.

Most colleges will super score GPA scores for admittance but not for scholarships.   A super score is where they take the highest math score and the highest reading score from each test.

Your kid can take the SAT or ACT as many times as they like but keep in mind that the best time to start taking these test is right after they complete Algebra II or close to completing it as this is the highest level of math on the tests.   Many kids will take this class in their freshman or sophomore years.   By the time they are juniors or seniors, they have forgotten a lot of this lower math.

Colleges will take the highest score for scholarship and admitance.

The SAT prep classes are worth it if they can improve your kids scores.   I would try this one but can't vouch for it because we didn't use it and they one my daughter took actually lower her score so I can't vouch for that one.  - don't use this one.   Didn't help. - this guy was on SharkTank and I wish we would have tried this first.   It is self paced and on line so it is more convenient.

Make sure your kid gets the highest SAT as possible during high school.   Drop any high school credit classes from middle school below an A because they average those classes together and even if they got a B it will pull down their average.   This will mean that they will have to repeat these classes though in high school which means they will probably do well because it will be a refresher class.   Or make sure they get A's in these classes.   

I recommend that at least have a 3.5 GPA as that seems to be the threshold for additional scholarship money.   But again, look into the college scholarship pages early to see what the offer.

2.   Apply early!

Start touring colleges in the sophomore and junior years so as soon as senior year starts, your kid can start applying.

Apply to all schools starting the beginning of the senior year as long as they are not committed to that school.   Understand the differences between early decision and early action.  These are best explained here:

Be sure to check each college's policies before applying.   

Try to visit schools that they are interested in to determine if they even want to apply.   Be sure to investigate off campus housing as most schools really don't focus on this and they will be spending most of their time off campus versus in the dorm.  There is no sense wasting money on the application fees for schools that your kids won't want to attend keeping in mind they need to apply to some safety schools.

It is recommended that they apply to 7-10 colleges.

The early bird gets the money!   Complete the FAFSA on the first day it opens.   Many schools commit their scholarship money to the first applicants.   The quicker you apply, the better off you will be.

Check the deadlines for housing, etc.   Some colleges will have housing application deadlines prior to regular admission notifications.   Be aware of these!

3.  Academic Common Market Majors for Out of State Schools

Leverage majoring in Academic Common Market majors for out of state schools.

This program is for 15 states from Maryland to Texas excluding North Carolina.   The Academic Common Market is a tuition-savings program for college students in 15 SREB states, who want to pursue degrees that are not offered by their in-state institutions. Students can enroll in out-of-state institutions that offer their degree program and pay the institution’s in-state tuition rates. More than 1,900 undergraduate and graduate programs are available.

You can check each college to see what majors they offer in state rates for based on your state of residence.

Your kid may only apply for one school and one major per year.   

Compare the major class requirements for ACM majors with major class requirements for other majors your kid may be interested in.   Your kid may be able to take advantage of this program for one or more years depending on the similarities in the majors and then switch in later years.   Most majors require the same basic classes for freshman and even sophomore years.   Even if your kid can only participate 1 year, that can be significant savings.

4.  Take dual enrollment or community college courses instead of AP classes while in high school.

I don't like AP classes because the ability to transfer these classes to colleges vary sideline and are all based on the test and not the grade received in the class.   

Some colleges don't take all AP classes either so if they take this, make sure the colleges they plan on applying to will take them.

I think the dual enrollment and community college courses are a better route because as long as your kid receives a C in the class, they will transfer to the college your kid plans on attending.

Consider having your kid take at least 5 of these classes to eliminate a semester in college.  Keep in mind that a full year high school dual enrollment class will count for 2 classes in college.

This can be a significant saving as well because you can eliminate one semester of tuition, food, books, etc. and possibly sublease their room.

5.  Start college essays during Junior Year

Start looking for other scholarships to apply to during Junior year and begin writing the essays that they require before the hectic senior starts.   This way when the application opens, it is a cut and paste. 

Most scholarships are offered for freshman and the number offered later years are significantly less so plan accordingly.   There is a lot of work to be done the senior year of high school.

6.  Finish in 4 years or less

Make sure you road map out how many classes and which classes are required to graduate on time.   Many colleges don't require guidance to register for classes beyond the freshman year and students often get behind by not taking enough or the right classes.  This can be quite challenging for some reasons for some kids.  I know you don't want to baby them, but when it affects your wallet, you have no choice!

In senior years, colleges often only offer classes during fall or spring semesters.   Make sure they utilize the advisors to prevent these pit falls.

Good luck!

1 comment:

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