Questions Parents Must Ask When Visiting Colleges to Save Themselves Money

5 Questions Every Family Needs to Ask the Financial Aid Office

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Parents of high school juniors and seniors are investing a lot of time and money visiting college campuses. While this might be a nice time of year to visit other areas, don’t just throw your money away on traveling. Consider this as a business trip, where you have specific goals in mind. Like most other parents, you want to spend the least amount of money on a college education, while still getting the maximum bang for your buck.

One stop you must make is the college’s financial aid office. This is not just some pleasantry; this is an important fact-finding meeting. Questions you ask and answers you receive could affect your family’s financial future as well as that of your college student. If you don’t work with the financial aid office to maximize the amount of financial aid your child receives your student might not be able to attend this college, or you could end up spending too much money for the experience.

Do your homework in advance and make sure you allow plenty of time for this meeting. Write the answers down so you can compare all of the potential colleges when you get home. Here are some questions that must be on your list:

  1. Do students here receive the same amount of financial aid in their sophomore year as they do in their freshman year? Many parents are surprised to find out that the financial aid package might not be the same every year. Sometimes there is more assistance up-front to get the student interested, or there might be a one-time grant or endowment available. You need to be able to realistically project your costs over the full four years of college.
  1. Do you ever award more money than what is listed in the financial aid package? Sometimes it is possible to increase the amount of financial aid over the offer the college initially made. As the school gets a better handle on the number of students entering the freshman class, it might realize that there is more money available to be disbursed. Find out when you can contact the office to determine if your aid package can be increased.
  1. What are all the deadlines I need to know about? Some parents make the embarrassing mistake of missing out on financial aid simply because they miss a crucial deadline. Get a list of pertinent dates and mark them in bold on a calendar.
  2. What can I expect as a return on my investment? If you approach this as a business discussion, you want to understand exactly what you are getting for your investment. How long do most students attend this college to get this particular degree? What are the estimated total costs to complete the degree? How many students from this university get hired in their chosen profession, and how much are they earning? These are all valid business-oriented questions.
  3. What else can I do? If you have never sent a child to college before, how can you reasonably be expected to know all of the insider tips and tricks? The financial aid office may know about other opportunities that could save you money, but they might not share if you don’t ask.

When it comes to spending money on a college education, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Don’t just jump in the car and take off for a college trip like you’re going on vacation. Act like you’re going on a business trip and plan accordingly.