With Fall just around the corner, incoming high school seniors are beginning their preparations for the college application process. Students will soon begin to narrow down their list of top schools to apply to, take note of college application due dates, and start completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile).
College financial concerns and budgeting are one of the biggest hurdles they will face. Ahead of pressing the send button on a school application, here are four common financial mistakes college-bound students and families make that you should avoid:
Mistake 1: Avoiding Financial Conversations
While this might seem like the most straightforward preparation for college, another common mistake families make is waiting until the last minute to discuss who will be in charge of tuition payments. Maybe you and/or your spouse have some money set aside for your teen, but not enough to cover all four years of tuition.
Maybe, your child is an athlete or is receiving some scholarship money, but they’ll likely require more financial aid to cover the cost of all four years. No matter the situation, discussing as a family early on about who will cover college expenses ensures family members, college advisors, and your child are all on the same page will more likely keep them motivated and on the right track throughout the entire process.
Mistake 2: Not Calculating How Much Your Top Schools Cost in Total
Families often look at the price of yearly tuition but don’t calculate the total cost of all four years of college. These include hidden fees you might not typically consider, like room & board, textbook costs, added living expenses, and other costly prices tied to attending college.
This critical first step allows students and families to understand costs better and walk into the financial planning process with a ballpark number in mind. Knowing this information upfront helps families and students make the best decisions for their college education
Mistake 3: Missing Deadlines for FAFSA + CSS Profile
Did you know many low-income teens opt out of completing the FAFSA or CSS Profile all together to avoid taking on student debt? According to the U.S. Department of Education, 28% of postsecondary students did not complete the FAFSA, and when roughly 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, this is a valid concern.
Missing information on your FAFSA often delays the admissions process and can end up costing families thousands of dollars. This error can be one of the biggest mistakes those looking into financial aid processes can make, so it’s essential to be mindful of deadlines and to take your time completing each application for accuracy.
While not all schools require CSS Profiles, most private schools do. The CSS Profile exists to help colleges capture a better understanding of a family’s financial situation and allows families to share any hurdles that would affect how they pay for college.
The end result of completing a CSS Profile could bring lower costs and new scholarship opportunities to your family or teen. Setting reminders on calendars about upcoming deadlines helps make sure you and your teen are on track to getting this information submitted on time.
Mistake 4: Not asking your College for More Money
A well-kept secret in the college application process is the ability to negotiate your financial aid package from your top choice schools. Many students who receive these offers from their college take them at face value. But it’s important to remember that college is a business, and just as you would negotiate for other significant investments made in your lifetime, such as a house or a car, you can do so with your top pick schools.
While it’s never guaranteed you’ll get more funding, many families can expect to receive an additional $3,500- $5,000 annually, depending on if it’s a public or private school when going back to ask for more. But parents and students take note: Negotiation is only recommended for your top schools.
While these mistakes are common, they’re easy to avoid when planning ahead. Have discussions as a family to talk through your top choice schools and why they’re important. Creating a checklist and a reminder of important dates and deadlines will keep everyone on track and avoid added stress and mistakes later on.
You can learn more about how to avoid these type of mistakes by going to College Funding Services.