- College Counseling
- Senior School
By Lucas Frankel, College Counselor
There can be some anxiety when discussing finances in regards to college. It’s a personal subject that is typically not discussed outside of the household. As college counselors, our primary goal is to support students and families through the complete process, and this includes financial aid. If parents predict that the sticker price of a college out of reach, they will want some guidance. Most families are happy to share their financial situation – it may be uncomfortable, but they know it is an essential part of the college process and want to remove any potential obstacles.
Ask Questions Early
The prospect of paying full price for college should eclipse the initial fear of discussing a difficult subject like money. College counselors have families’ best interests at heart, and we want to ensure we help in every way possible – this includes financial aid. The money conversation is a shot in the arm, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even if you’re unsure if you qualify for need-based financial aid, talk to your counselor early.
Review Sample Packages
It’s always a victory when a student receives an acceptance letter, but it can be confusing and frustrating to get the estimated financial aid package that comes along with it. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to review examples of financial aid so that families can easily break down what they’re reading. Unfortunately there is no standardization to financial aid, so packages and details can differ greatly from school to school. But the lingo and information remains generally the same, and families will want the ability to compare apples to apples when reviewing their options.
The ”Magic Number”
A good exercise for the family may be to ascertain their “magic number” – this is the annual amount that they are able to spend on their child’s education. It’s healthy for the parents to have a solid idea of what they feel comfortable paying for college. The Net Price Calculator is a good tool (available on college websites) that can help predict how much need-based aid the school is able to provide for that student. This “magic number” can affect the college process entirely, so it’s important to have these conversations early. Finances won’t be the primary factor in creating a student’s college list, but they need to be carefully taken into account.
When students and families take the necessary steps to open up communication it provides counselors with the information to provide the best support. Although these conversations may seem challenging it gives students the best chance at success, and that’s our primary goal!