Be Open Minded and Diligent to Reduce the Cost of Your Child’s College
The only part of the college application process that may be more daunting than persuading an admission officer to admit your child is figuring out how to pay for your child’s college education. Today, private universities can cost more than $70,000 per year including tuition, fees, room, and board. Public colleges and universities can also be incredibly expensive with some public flagship universities costing over $30,000 per year for tuition, fees, room, and board.
Similar to using strategy to gain admission to highly selective colleges, the high cost of a college education also requires your family to use strategy—in this case, to offset the high costs through merit scholarships and need-based grants. Instead of resigning yourself or your child to taking out six figure loans to pay for college, your family should avail itself of the millions of dollars of scholarships and grants that colleges and outside organizations offer applicants each year.
The most important part of reducing the cost of your child’s college education is to keep an open mind with the colleges your child applies to. Your child should consider applying to colleges that offer merit scholarships, especially for safety schools. Many private colleges offer up to full tuition scholarships to applicants at the top of the applicant pool, while public universities can offer compelling out-of- state applicants, in- state tuition rates to drastically reduce the cost of attendance.
You may also be surprised at the income levels that qualify for need- based grants. Some of the most selective colleges have financial aid policies that enable students to graduate debt free and receive no-loan financial aid packages based on demonstrated need. Families earning up to $150,000 may qualify for grants that cover a child’s tuition. This Chapter discusses how you and your child should approach college-sponsored merit scholarships, need-based grants, and outside scholarships.
II. Pursue Scholarships and Grants Awarded by Colleges
Many colleges offer merit scholarships to compelling applicants to entice them to enroll and need-based grants to applicants that demonstrate an inability to pay all or part of the cost of their college education. Your family should research the financial aid and scholarship policies of colleges your child is interested in attending. Many of the most selective colleges in the country have similar financial aid policies. For example, Ivy League colleges, Stanford, Williams and other highly selective colleges do not offer merit scholarships. The applicants they admit are some of the most compelling college applicants in the world and many, if not all, would qualify for some form of merit scholarship. However, these highly selective colleges offer generous, no-loan, need- based financial aid programs designed to enable students (and their families) to graduate debt free. At some of these highly selective colleges, over 60% of students receive need-based grants, with the average award amounting to $40,000 (close to the cost of tuition).
Families that earn up to $150,000 per year may qualify for significant grants at highly selective colleges. These financial aid policies should incentivize your child to gain admission to the most selective colleges in the country and also help explain the dramatic increase in the number of applicants for the most selective colleges in the country with generous financial aid policies. If an applicant can earn admission to highly selective college, she may earn a reduction for much of her cost of attendance through generous grants that the college offers.
1. Merit-Based Scholarships
Many private colleges offer merit scholarships to entice their most compelling applicants to accept their offers of admission and enroll. Merit scholarships can cover the full cost of tuition, and potentially room, board, and other fees. Your child will not receive merit scholarships if she does not apply to colleges that offer them. Your family should cast a wide net to find colleges that your child would be interested in attending where she may also be a strong contender for a large scholarship. Merit scholarships are often awarded on the strength of an application and do not require any additional essays or forms.
All of the work your child will put into making each component of her college application compelling could translate into significant merit scholarships for her. To increase your child’s odds of receiving a merit scholarship from a private college, she can apply to colleges where her entrance exam scores and high school transcript place her at the top of the applicant pool. If a college accepts more than 25% of its applicants and your child is in the top 25% of the applicant pool for all components of the SAT I or ACT and has as close to straight ‘A’s’ as possible, your child will be at the top of that college’s applicant pool and potentially be in a strong position for a merit scholarship. Any other component of your child’s college application that is also compelling, including your child’s extracurricular activities or personal statement, may also lead to a merit scholarship.
Some colleges offer merit scholarships through endowments that require an additional essay or application. If possible, apply to these scholarship programs after your child has found out if she has been accepted. Treat any application for a scholarship like applying to college: your child should demonstrate as much value as possible to persuade an organization that awards scholarships to grant one to your child. Merit scholarships are designed to entice the most compelling applicants to enroll at that college. The more value your child demonstrates, the stronger her odds of receiving a merit scholarship.