College costs, even at public universities, are rising each year. In college counseling we understand that families approach the college search process from varied financial circumstances. Parents should have candid conversations with their child about financial limitations and/or expectations no later than the student’s junior year of high school.
 
Following are concepts of interest for those looking to reduce college costs:
 
Federal Aid
You must apply for federal aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many colleges will also ask families to complete the CSS Profile; additionally, colleges may have their own financial aid forms. After completion, colleges may award a combination of grants, loans and work-study aimed at reducing college costs. Students must complete these forms yearly.
 
Academic Scholarships
While some organizations offer academic scholarships (such as the Gates Foundation and the Coca-Cola Foundation), the vast majority of academic scholarships come directly from a college or university. Many colleges will require applicants to apply separately for scholarships and it is the student’s responsibility to learn the requirements for each institution of interest. Many highly selective colleges do not offer academic scholarships, and those that do offer scholarships do so to a small percentage of their applicants. If receiving an academic scholarship is a priority, students need to be open to applying to a variety of public and private colleges; your counselor can help you identify appropriate institutions.
 
Athletic Scholarships
Only a small percentage of college-bound seniors will be NCAA Division I recruited athletes. It is possible, though, for exceptional athletes to frame their college search process with this goal in mind. The athletic recruiting process often starts in the junior year, rarely later than the summer after junior year. While most college coaches operate with integrity, a few make unrealistic promises about admission or scholarship. Please know that nothing is final until it is in writing, and always have a back-up plan. There are more options for students interested in NCAA Division III athletic participation; be aware that athletic scholarships do not exist in these programs.
 
Additional Scholarships
Some colleges offer scholarships for students majoring in the fine arts, typically awarded after auditioning or presenting a portfolio. Other students may qualify for a community service scholarship. Check with individual institutions and organizations to learn about possible awards.
 
Early Decision and Financial Aid
Students who wish to compare need-based financial aid packages and/or merit-based aid offers should not apply under binding early decision programs. If admitted, these programs require students to withdraw all other applications, therefore limiting your options. It is better for students interested in need-based or merit-based aid options to apply under non-binding early action, rolling, or regular decision programs.
 
Net Price Calculators
Beginning October 2011 all colleges and universities must offer a net price calculator on their website. In theory, these calculators will collect standardized information from individuals, such as family income and savings, and then produce an approximate net price. An individual’s net price equals total cost minus financial aid (both need-based and merit-based). The accuracy of net price calculators will vary by institution and families should be cautious when using the information.
 
We understand that pursuing financial aid and scholarships requires time and patience. 
Please contact your college counselor for additional assistance.