The summer before last, I took on a writing project where I spent the summer interviewing financial aid officers at colleges and writing articles. It was very eye opening. I learned how to help my child maximize scholarship opportunities, and what even middle and upper middle class families can do to help pay for college. They told me that the children needed to choose a college based on what they got on the SAT or ACT. These scores needed to be compared to what the average scores of students of their selective schools were received. To maximize a grant award from a college, their test scores had to be in the top 25% of the average student in the school.
This means that if the child received a score in the 60th percentile of students, that it would not be a good idea to apply to the Ivy League schools; not if you are hoping for a scholarship anyway. If you are a A student, then apply to A schools. If you are a B student, apply to B schools, etc.. I documented all of this information, and was prepared for our turn at college entry, grants, and scholarships. So why am I still freaking out now that we have mailed out the first transcript/homeschool portfolio?
It is because with all of my knowledge, I still know college is going to cost us. I know the FAFSA people are going to point at us and laugh. We don't meet low income guidelines. I know the financial aid office is going to point us toward private college loans to cover a good portion of our child's college bills. Fortunately for our kids we don't plan to insist they go to college, and then stick them with the bills. The plan is to figure out how much they will get in grants, and any financial aid that might happen, and split the balance. We will pay half of it, and they will be responsible for the rest. This way, the kids will think about the cost of the college they choose, but will also get a reasonable amount of help from mom and dad.
To give myself a small bit of relief, I used the Discover student loan calculator to determine the worst case scenario of what college would cost for my oldest child, if he chose the most expensive college on his list. If we split the remainder of the college cost after any awards, both us, the parents, and the kids may need to take out loans to get a college education. It makes me kind of sad that college is going to be costly during a time when our savings have been depleted, but it is good to know that we will be able to help thanks to the ability to get a combination of Federal loans and private college loans.
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