Summer is a great time to head to college campuses for a visit. Not only can you learn more about schools and get a feel for whether they’re a good fit for you, but campus visits are also an ideal opportunity to speak to admissions representatives and financial aid officers one-on-one about college costs and financial aid. When speaking to these college representatives, consider asking these ten questions to ensure you find the school that fits you best in every way, including financially.
Some colleges know what their listed charges (sticker prices) will be years in advance. Most don’t, but obtaining the current sticker price will at minimum provide you with an initial starting point for determining the affordability of the institution. If you intend to live in university housing for more than one year, be sure to ask how room and board plans typically fluctuate from year to year. Are all room prices the same? How about meal plan prices?
Depending on your course of study, books can be a significant expense. It is important to find the lowest price for your textbooks whenever possible. You might be able to gain some valuable tips on how to save money on textbooks—especially from student tour guides.
Some colleges provide academic scholarships, some do not. It is important to determine the college’s philosophy. You might even consider digging a bit deeper to learn more about the criteria used to determine how academic scholarships are awarded. For example, do they use ACT or SAT scores, GPA, or class rank? Knowing this information can give you a better sense of how likely it is that you’ll be able to lower the cost of college with academic scholarships.
In addition to the up-front academic scholarship, some colleges offer other options for merit money. The visit is a great time to learn about all of these potential options.
Some schools offer more need-based financial aid than others, and it is critical to understand how much aid is available when you’re in search of your most affordable college options. You might want to ask if need-based financial aid is a significant component of the aid offered to freshmen or if it is mostly merit scholarship money.
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Many college students can earn their spending money (rather than relying on their parents for it) and, in some cases, pay for books with a campus job. In case you aren’t eligible for a federal work-study job, you might want to ask what other jobs you can obtain on campus.
Some colleges have very exact net price calculators and others do not. It is important for you to know the reliability of the NPC before using it to determine whether it is affordable to you. Ask if there are financial aid options available that aren’t accounted for in the NPC.
Every family must file a FASFA in order to qualify for federal aid, but a few schools require a supplemental document. If you need to learn more about deadlines for financial aid applications, you should definitely ask this as well. You might also ask when you can expect to receive your financial aid award letter.
The FAFSA is a financial snapshot, but not all aspects of a family’s financial picture—such as loss of income or unexpected medical expenses—can be captured by this snapshot. That is why many colleges allow for appeals.
Look into how much these schools allot to Perkins loan money and how low your EFC (estimated family contribution) must be to become eligible. The Perkins loan is a very attractive student loan option for which few students are eligible. You might also consider asking about parent loans and college-sponsored student loans as well.
Campus visits are just one step on the road to your acceptance letter.