Paying for College: How Parents and Students Can Tackle College Financing

Early on in high school–let’s say freshman year–I recall asking my parents over dinner how much money had been saved for my two sisters and I to attend college.

In response I got two belly laughs, and a recommendation to “keep up those grades for scholarships”. For a 15-year old, it was a strong wake-up call that college would be a shared burden–and maybe even my entire responsibility.  

With the student loan debt crisis looming large over young graduates, it appears that college financing is still a huge challenge for many American families. So, to ward off an unhealthy college debt burden at graduation, it’s all about being proactive now–starting with those all-important initial parent-student discussions about expectations, resources, and responsibilities.

In short, tackling the “How are we going to pay for college?” question requires getting informed, understanding each family member’s unique role, and making a plan.

College Conversation Starter: How Can We Determine Where Our Financial Contributions are Coming From?

“Put pen to paper,” says Minnesota-based Derek F. Hagen, CFP® and founder of Fireside Financial. “Figure out how much it will cost, determine the resources you have available, and list out how you will pay. Start with any college savings, factor in monthly cash flow that can be used for college, determine if there will be grandparent help, take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (worth $10,000 over four years if you qualify), and take advantage of Federal Direct loans–which have limits each year and are ‘use-it-or-lose-it.’”

“I bring [clients] through a college pre-approval process,” says CFP® Jeff Brainard, CEO and founder of Columbine Wealth Management in Colorado. “It’s not about saving or investing, it’s about here’s where I am as a parent, these are all the resources I have. We’re going to get an idea of what we’re going to qualify for from a financial aid perspective. From there, we’re going to create a menu of schools that are acceptable, to both the students and parents.”

Once parents have a better sense of what they can contribute, they can tell their kids their expectations about how financial responsibilities will be divvied up. Each family will be different; each arrangement unique.

College Conversation Starter: Which Schools Can My Family Can Afford?

Managing expectations versus reality can be the trickiest part of hashing out where to apply to college, with academics, competition, and finances all playing a strong role in the decision-making process. Keep an open mind and be willing to research, negotiate with, and consider a wide variety of schools.

Planning for college needs to get a lot deeper, with a lot more explanation and hand holding,” says Brainard. “It’s much more than running numbers through financial planning software and saying this is what it’s going to cost you. There are a lot of options out there.”

Let’s say your student has her heart set on a particular school–but you do some digging and learn it doesn’t offer merit-based scholarships. Can you find a comparable experience at a different college that may have a more robust aid package (or maybe even a full ride)? Look at rankings for departments, available aid, and estimated salaries for graduates in specific majors. “You don’t want to borrow more than that first-year salary,” Brainard says.

“It all starts with their budget,” says Hagen. “Know how much you have, factor in ‘good’ student loans–that is, Federal Direct loans–factor in the American Opportunity Tax Credit and any cash flow you and your child are able to contribute toward college. Then, go shopping for schools that are within that budget. Make sure to shop based on net price to you, not sticker price.”

Do you have a brilliant student, or a student with a remarkable athletic or artistic talent? Try filtering your aid package research through those specific parameters. Chances are, you’ll find an institution seeking out your student’s distinctive abilities, one that may be willing to pay some or all of the bill to get them on campus.

College Conversation Starter: We Don’t Have Much Saved for College. What Financial Aid Opportunities are Available to Us Right Now?

If you have little–or nothing–saved for college, you’re not alone. “The truth is very few people have enough money to pay for their kids to go to school,” says Brainard. “I’ve never had a client that has everything covered.”

Luckily, there are resources to help budget and plan for institutions that match your family’s finances and your student’s goals–and a lot of financial aid packages to help.

“Learn the financial aid formula–the cost of college minus the expected family contribution equals the aid you are eligible for,” says Hagen. “This is different for each institution because each institution has a different cost. Use resources like collegedata.com and collegeboard.org to find out the financial aid policy at your selected schools. Some will meet 100 percent of your need.”

Don’t be timid: Ask about discounts, look into scholarships, and use comparison tools (like Edmit) to take advantage of every penny that’s available to you. Speaking of comparison shopping, we can’t recommend this strategy enough: By comparing the net price of colleges, side by side, you’ll be empowered with the knowledge of exactly which school is your ideal financial fit.

“There are always ways we can figure out a best fit for your child,” says Brainard. “Once parents realize that very few people [pay full price], and learn that they’re going to go through a process, it changes the conversation to ‘we’re going to figure out what we can do.’”

Sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready!

-By Sarah Pascarella

Edmit secures funding from leading education and technology investors to help more families save money on college tuition

We’re excited to share that in addition to our small but mighty team committed to helping students and families price compare and get the best deal from their top choice colleges, we’ve raised venture capital funding from an incredible group of education and technology investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners’ 15 Angels fund and Rethink Education’s seed fund (a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, where our co-founder Sabrina was previously AVP).

On why Rethink Education invested in Edmit, Michelle Dervan, Principal, said, “One of the greatest challenges facing college-bound students and their families is understanding what the real cost of attendance will be. This information is critical in enabling financial planning and setting the student up for success toward graduation. We are delighted to be an early supporter of the Edmit team as they work to bring a greater degree of price transparency to the higher education sector.”

Paying for higher education is a confusing and stressful topic for families, and often college students and graduates feel they were not well-informed on cost when making their decision. Students and parents often tell us, “we don’t think we’ll get any aid, or we won’t get enough aid,” but the fact of the matter is almost every single student in America receives aid- and in many cases it’s 50% or more off published tuition price. Our goal at Edmit is to demystify college financial aid, scholarships, and tuition, and act as a buyer’s agent for college. You wouldn’t buy a house without using Zillow or Redfin, and now you have Edmit to help you get the best deal for college.

Bill Triant, an angel investor and Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Investments at Pearson, said “I found the idea compelling: there is a lack of transparency around institutional financial aid awards in the college admissions process, and this causes distortions in college selection and attendance.  Lower-income students are likely most affected, as they may overestimate the cost of college just by looking at sticker price.”

With this early stage venture capital investment, we’re expanding our higher education technology service to cover every four-year college in the U.S. and are accelerating the release of our public beta later this year. In the meantime, we hope you will sign up for our private beta at http://www.edmit.me so we can help you maximize value in your college decision process.

Our other seed funding investors include education sector and technology executives, and entrepreneurs from across the country:

  • Boston and New York: Neu VC, Bill Triant, Vice President at Pearson, Wan Li Zhu, Partner at Fairhaven Capital, Anthony Accardi, CTO of Rue La La, Shereen Shermak, Board of Visitors at Duke’s Pratt Engineering School, and Rob Biederman, Founder and Co-CEO of Catalant.
  • Silicon Valley and Seattle: Tuscan Management, Tom McCleary, Senior Vice President at Salesforce, Daniel Jacobson, Vice President at Netflix, Claire Vo Lawless, Vice President at Optimizely, Dennis Yang, Founder of Dashbot, Peter Temes, Seattle Dean at Northeastern University, and Josh King, General Counsel at Avvo.
  • Texas and Midwest: Tyler Willis, Founder of Customer Science, Eric Falcao, Founder and CTO of Spredfast, Jeff Shaddix, Partner at BCG, and Matt Lyons, Partner at Andrews Kurth.

Thank you for supporting our mission!

-Nick Ducoff, Co-founder and CEO

My College Story: Stanford Student Jacob Tyler Randolph

Jacob Randolph is a junior at Stanford University, majoring in Political Science and Communication. He is active in local, state, and federal politics, and is an external relations intern at Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. Jacob is passionate about educating students about the value of higher education, and helping them find better prices for college–just like our mission here at Edmit! He also happens to be our newest intern.

We recently sat down with Jacob to learn a bit more about his college application and financial aid process.

Edmit: What was your college process like?

Jacob: I knew going into the process that I needed to attend a university that provided full financial aid, or something close to it, because college wasn’t something I or my family could afford. So I went in with that viewpoint and had to do my research and learned along the way.

Going into the process, I expected that I was going to end up at a state school – one of the UCs – because of the affordability question. However, I was connected with QuestBridge when my counselor happened to receive a pamphlet in the mail for it. I was the first person to apply from my high school. Little did I know that it would open up so many opportunities.

Edmit: How does the QuestBridge program work?

Jacob: QuestBridge is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect low-income and high-achieving students with top universities like Stanford. You apply as a high school senior to become a finalist in the program, and if you are accepted then QuestBridge supports you as you apply to their partner colleges – including help navigating through the large number of financial aid requirements.

Edmit: How did you compare colleges?

Jacob: I started to look at schools in California because I wanted to stay close to home. QuestBridge helped me a lot with the search; after I was accepted I looked at all of the partners from their site to see what schools would be a good fit for my interests and career goals. In particular, it was important for me to go somewhere that was humanities and social science-focused because of my desire to pursue a career in public service.

In terms of the cost, I really didn’t know what it would look like until I received the award letters – I was going on faith a little bit. And it was actually a shock when I received them. I was thinking that public schools would be much more affordable, but they weren’t anything compared to the financial aid packages I received at the private schools I applied to. That was definitely not something I was expecting.

Edmit: What do you wish high school students understood better about the college process?

Jacob: I am a QuestBridge ambassador now, so I visit high schools all over to tell them about the program and encourage students to not let their socioeconomic statuses define their future.

The biggest misconception high school students have is that private schools will end up being the most expensive. They see the $70K cost of attendance – and it’s scary. The sticker price discourages them and they don’t branch out to other schools outside of their comfort zone. Often you’ll hear people are only applying to their local public colleges or universities. I ultimately want to help people realize that lots of schools will offer generous aid. What I always say is, you have nothing to lose! Go ahead and fill out the forms, and see what they offer you. It’s better to have options than to shut the door of opportunity right at the beginning of the process.

Sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready! 

– By Sabrina Manville

Find the Dream Experience, Not the Dream School: How Parent of 4 Kevin Gillis is Paying for College

“One of the things I’m trying to do is just get parents to talk about [the college application process]–It’s almost like it’s a dirty secret,” says Kevin Gillis, a Massachusetts-based father of four. “It’s almost taboo to talk about it, because you can’t talk about your debt, your loans–parent loans, student loans, grandparent loans, refinancing, home equity lines–I think it just makes it harder to prioritize their [kids’] decision. And what I’m seeing is there’s a lot of peer pressure, even for the parents.”

Finding the right financial fit should be part of the college “dream.”

With two children at out-of-state colleges (one private, one public) and two in high school, Gillis is well familiar with the college application and financial aid process. And like many parents with multiple kids heading to college at or around the same time, he knows the admissions and financial aid process can give you battle scars. The good news? A level-headed approach and clear communication can go a long way toward minimizing stress and managing expectations.

Here’s how Gillis’s family approaches the college application and financial aid process.

Edmit: You’ve got two kids in college, and two more soon to go. How did you talk to your kids about planning for college–and how can other parents successfully have ‘the talk’?  

Gillis: We started saving when our oldest was born; we did the 529 for a long time, but it still wasn’t anywhere close to what we would need. You think you have all the time in the world, but it compresses so quickly. So we just basically said [to our kids] here’s what’s available, and you have to make up the difference.

There’s more than 3,000 four-year colleges, and even if you follow sports religiously, you only may be able to name, let’s say, 400. Well there’s another 2,600 you’ve never heard of! So there’s a college for everybody, but there’s also a college debt for everybody if you’re not careful.

For the parent/child conversations, timing is your friend. If you start the conversations before they’ve stepped on any campus, there’s not a lot of emotion. It’s just “all my friends are going to college, I guess my parents went so I’m going to go.” If you’re talking to them as a freshman or a sophomore [in high school], it almost doesn’t matter, but as a junior or a senior, and before they’ve started getting too deep into the process, now you’re driving and shaping the conversation. You’re not having the kids’ friends or the famous alumni from a particular college driving.

We asked our kids “what are your top three schools?” while they are applying–the reason being you’re not waiting until the last week or the last month in a complete panic if you can’t decide. You have to plan.

I think the best thing is also talking to other parents with kids in college, other people who have been through it. Ideally, the more aligned with the economic situation of the people you’re talking to, the better.

Edmit: How did your family tackle the college financial aid process?

Gillis: [Encourage] kids to not just find the dream school. It’s more like, OK, the reality is here’s what we’re able to afford, and and we’re not going to let you make a terrible decision. We don’t know what’s going to happen in five, 10 years, so at least let’s minimize the exposure and risk.

So, here’s what everything costs, here’s what each college costs–at list [price]. Then what are all the ways we can make it work? Maybe don’t do the meal plan, live in a different type of housing, be an RA, get a job in school, do real jobs in the summertime when you come home, work during the Christmas break.

We’ve given each of our four children the exact same amounts, if they take four years or 10 years to go to undergrad, it doesn’t matter, they don’t get more. From their perspective, they had to factor that in and decide what they wanted to do.

For financial fit, we knew what we could afford for each of them, and everything else was [their responsibility]. We knew what they had saved, going into their freshman year, so we had a goal to get through at least the freshman year debt-free for everybody–both parents and children. The ideal was also the sophomore year debt-free. But they’re still paying for something–they’re paying half, or more than half in some cases. This is a conversation that’s a little more complicated for children to understand: that we’re not going to do anything to the house or our retirement to help you with your education. We have saved for 18 years, and that’s all we can afford.

Edmit: What are some creative ways your family has paid for college or made the process more affordable?

Gillis: My daughter ended up moving into student-owned housing, and she’s saving $12,000 per year off room and board–but she has 29 roommates. That’s the trade-off. Is it ideal? No. Would she rather be with her friends in an off-campus apartment or a dorm? Yes. But guess what? You’re going to grow and learn a lot more [than the dorms], and save money, too.

My daughters have both done basic internships, they’re paid about $13 to $14 an hour, it’s not huge, but it does make a difference. It’s work experience for the resume, you can make some money in the summertime, get a second job. It’s just part of the cycle.

Additionally, if you apply to schools where you’re above the average, you’re much more likely to get merit aid. So that’s a factor, too. You could go to your dream school or get a dream experience– and the dream experience can set you up [for success].

Sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready!

-By Sarah Pascarella

How I Paid for College: Wellesley College Alum April Crehan

Lake Waban | Wellesley, MA
Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism on Flickr

The “choosing a college” process is expensive: Even before financial aid packages arrive, fees to take the SATs and to submit applications can easily cost a grand or more. This sticker shock is how I found myself sending a panicked late-night application to a school I never visited or even Googled, all because they offered a free “VIP” application that required no extra essay and sent rolling acceptance letters.

When I found out I got into that last-minute decision school, I was relieved to know I was definitely going to college. The acceptance also meant I could scratch off a few safety schools from my list. However, when the financial aid package arrived… let’s just say, financially, it definitely wasn’t a safety school.

In fact, by the time every college acceptance letter rolled in, the best aid packages I received were from the toughest private schools I had applied to.

By comparison, my friends were horrified at the “affordability” of Massachusetts state schools, even when their MCAS scores earned them free tuition. (My mom described seeing the early price estimates for college as “a  nightmare.”) But the high cost of fees and room and board meant even the public schools supposedly designed to be accessible couldn’t stack up against the offers from private colleges with large endowments.

Harvard had recently started offering its Zero to 10 Percent Standard, drastically reducing the amount families were required to pay and how much financial assistance was in loans rather than grants. That meant my Harvard package was nearly free, which made it a little difficult for my parents not to pressure me away from Wellesley (the school I ultimately chose to attend).

You got a somewhat even deal and, in the end, you had to go there, not us,” my mother recently told me when I asked what she remembered about the college application and financial aid process. (Although there was one offer from Wesleyan, my parents told me straight out they wouldn’t pay, since it cost an astronomical amount compared to higher-ranked schools.)

“It was understood that you’d have a job in college. I think you knew that you were coming out with loans,” she said. “It was important that you knew how much your education was costing.” And she was right—although neither of us could remember one explicit sit-down conversation about how we were paying for college, I knew they had taken out an equity line and I knew I would graduate with debt, which I paid off three years after I graduated.

I was fortunate to pay it off so soon: The Wellesley financial aid department was generous and our family finances had changed dramatically since my sister had started there five years prior, before the real estate and mortgage business crumbled. And our family had the good luck of my dad’s experience as a financial advisor and being well acquainted with Wellesley’s financial aid team by the time I rolled into the school.

He recalled talking to Wellesley’s Student Financial Services office after my sister’s package came in, which was based on a pre-crash FAFSA. “I built a case from my background,” he said, explaining that financial aid officers are essentially underwriters.

“I was well into a 60 percent pay cut and I was trying to get some accommodation from them,” he said—and it worked.  

Going through school, I thought little about the debt I was accumulating and more about how to keep my bank account from shrinking into nothing. I worked two part-time student jobs, applied for and received grants for my summer internships, and more than once stretched myself thin by interning 9-to-5 and adding on a part-time restaurant gig.

In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have paid off my student loans so aggressively. The interest rates are unbelievably low compared to auto loans or that far-off dream: a mortgage. But that feeling of freedom when the final Stafford loan is paid off is almost as freeing as getting accepted. The loan company even sent me a letter starting with “Congratulations!”–just like they had with my college acceptance letters. The best part? This pat on back had no price tag attached.

Sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready! 

-By April M. Crehan

An Inside Look at Tuition Resets: Edmit Speaks with Robert Massa, Drew University

Tuition reductions, or “tuition resets”, have been in the news lately, with Birmingham-Southern College, Drew University, and Sweet Briar College all embracing a reduced sticker price. Robert Massa, senior vice president of enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University, chatted with Edmit about why Drew decided to cut tuition by 20 percent.

Edmit: What was the rationale behind Drew University’s tuition reset?

Massa: The price of tuition at colleges has gone up significantly over the past 30 years. At the same time, the College Board just released their study on college costs, and while financial aid over the course of those years has certainly increased, it recently has not kept up with the increases in price.

We always look at what’s affectionately called the “sticker price” or “published price” as the cost of college. But cost is different from price: Cost is what it costs us [colleges and universities] to provide the education, not what you [the students and families] pay. Price is what you pay, but most students don’t pay that [full] price because of financial aid.

In the recently released College Board study, net undergraduate tuition and fees fell from an average $15,270 in 2007 to 2008 to $13,210 in 2012 to 2013, even though published prices were rising by an average of 2.4 percent annually in private nonprofit four-year institutions.

Robert Massa is Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Institutional Planning at Drew University

In other words, financial aid is still making up the difference. So why am I giving you all this background? Because most students do not pay the published price at most institutions. This is not true for the uber-selective schools, the Ivies and near-Ivies and the top 50 or so US News & World Report colleges and universities. It is true, however, for the bulk of the other 2,300 four-year nonprofit public and private universities: Most students do not pay the published price.

That said, numerous studies, most recently by the firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz,  show that at least half of families that look at colleges and universities cross schools off their lists based on the published price alone. In other words, they don’t dig deeply enough to find out what the net price would be, what the average price with financial aid would be. They don’t go on the [schools’] websites, they don’t look at the net price calculator to find out what it could cost them. They simply say it’s too expensive.

[With a tuition reset at Drew], we’re not lowering the cost of attendance. If we significantly cut our cost, we impact our quality. So we’re not cutting costs, we’re cutting the price that we charge. We need to get the attention of more students who are looking for colleges. We’re doing that by bringing our published price more in line with what most students pay after financial aid.

Think of it this way: If you’re selling a commodity and most people pay $100 for it, and you’re selling it for $350, but nobody really pays that price, people look at it say “I’m not paying $350 for that”, and move on to the next thing. Why would you continue to have your price at that level if most people aren’t paying it? You’re disincentivizing potential buyers, if you will, from actually considering your product.

Edmit: How can colleges like Drew afford the tuition reset?

Massa: Here’s the deal: Most colleges, like Drew, very fine liberal arts colleges, have a very small percentage of students who are paying the full price. Of Drew’s 1,550 students, only 75 were paying the full price without any financial aid. So when we cut the price by almost $10,000, that’s a loss of $750,000 or so. That can be recovered with increased enrollment, and increased enrollment is the expected result of cutting the price. That’s why you reduce the price to begin with, particularly if you’re under-enrolled, which we are. You want to get the attention of students who hadn’t even considered Drew–because of the list price being so high–but for whom Drew would be an excellent alternative.

Edmit: For prospective college students and their parents, what advice can you offer them in terms of figuring out what they can afford?

Massa: Families have to decide for themselves what is worth it and what isn’t. Look at the programs, the place, and the people to determine the value of [the colleges they’re considering]. The average student is going to pay roughly $20,000 to $21,000 [per year] in tuition; at Drew, we’re charging $39,500. The average student is going to get a 48 percent discount from our new price; before they were getting a 62 percent discount from the higher price. So it’s still expensive,and we’re still going to be providing both need- and merit-based aid to help bring the price that families pay down to the affordable range.

Sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready! 

-By Sarah Pascarella

Financial Aid 101: All About Scholarships

Photo by COD Newsroom on Flickr

If you’re like most aspiring college students, you’re hoping to head to campus with a scholarship (or several) to defray the ever-increasing cost of getting your degree. You may be wondering, though, how to get started–where to research scholarships that are available, which scholarships to apply for, and how to stand out from the competition.

Like most college processes, applying for scholarships can be overwhelming–but it doesn’t have to be. With good planning–and a willingness to be inquisitive–you can snag those extra scholarship dollars for your freshman year and beyond. 

Extra, Extra! Edmit has its own $500 scholarship! Are you applying to college in the US, with plans to enroll for the 2018-19 academic year? Click here to put your name in the running.

What are Scholarships?

In short, scholarships are free money. The good folks at Merriam-Webster define a scholarship as “grant-in-aid to a student (as by a college or a foundation)”. The University of Southern Alabama defines a scholarship as “a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academics or other achievement.”

Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be paid back, and typically are awarded based on specific criteria, such as academic, artistic, or athletic accomplishments; demographics; financial need; and the like. Scholarships can be awarded on a competitive basis (e.g., an essay contest), by nomination (e.g., from your teachers), or via a selection committee. They can range from small, such as a few hundred dollars, to full, covering your entire tuition.

Who Can Apply for a Scholarship?

While specific applicant criteria will differ by the scholarship program itself, most baseline eligibility covers students enrolled full-time at an accredited degree-granting university or college. When researching scholarships, you’ll want to read the fine print regarding eligibility, deadlines, and other specific instructions. For example, if you’re planning to study 18th century British literature, you won’t want to spend time researching scholarships specific to STEM students. (Arts and humanities scholarships, however, are fair game!) Similarly, if you’re a first-in-family student headed to Mizzou, you can skip over scholarships allocated for heritage applicants.

Get comfortable with skimming eligibility requirements quickly, so you can immediately spot which programs are worth your time and energy, and which should be filtered out of your scholarship research.

Where and When Should I Look for Scholarships?

Type “scholarships” into Google and you’ll be inundated with search results. Instead of just closing your laptop and walking away, here are a few places to get started:

When it comes to scholarship applications, the earlier you start your research and applications, the better. The Department of Education recommends getting started between your junior and senior year of high school, but note that some programs will have varying (or even rolling) deadlines. The point isn’t when you start your research, just that you start.

Note, though, that scholarship application deadlines are non-negotiable. If you’re too late to apply for the coming year, file it away for next year. Silver lining–You’ve already got a jump on next year’s scholarship application process!

How Do I Apply for a Scholarship?

When it comes to scholarships, each funder will be different, with a specific set of application instructions. Follow these instructions to the letter with each scholarship application you send. When a team is reviewing a stack of applications, it’s easy and efficient to reduce the size of the pile by immediately discarding those who didn’t follow directions. So, for example, if the application instructs you to use paperclips, don’t use staples, or you’ll be relegated to the trash pile. You can have the most compelling personal story and well-written application of the lot, but if you disregard your instructions, you may as well have not applied at all.

Get the Inside Scoop

So you’ve done your research and applied for a few scholarships–but what about schools that have money left to burn? According to SavingforCollege.com, U.S. universities and colleges have more than $100 million in unawarded scholarships each year. This is where being inquisitive can literally pay off. If you’re interested in a particular school (or schools), start networking: Speak to the financial aid team and the deans of programs that interest you. Is there unclaimed money available? If so, how can you apply for it?

Lastly, don’t limit yourself to traditional scholarships–there are a lot of niche scholarship programs out there. For example, If you worked as a golf caddie in high school, check out the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship. Fascinated by all things underwater? Consider applying for the Our-World Underwater Society Rolex Scholarship. And if you’re a leftie, there are no fewer than 10 scholarships just for left-handed students, ranging from $500 to $5,000.  

Click here to enter Edmit’s $500 scholarship – All you need to do is answer 3 simple questions about your college plans.

AND sign up for Edmit’s waiting list and be the first to know when our college cost-comparison tool is ready!

– By Sarah Pascarella

Keep a Level Head: 5 Ways to Take Emotion Out of the College Decision

When it comes to choosing a college, it’s easy to get emotional. After all, college encompasses the most magical four years of your life. (OK, maybe five or six years nowadays.) It’s where you’ll kick start your career, discover who you are, meet your lifelong best friends, and become eternally inspired.

(cue record scratch)

Let’s take a step back. That’s a lot of pressure–and a lot of emotion–carried into one decision. And while choosing a college is a big decision, it need not be approached differently from any other large purchase. (After all, emotionally driven purchases tend to lead to regret.) By being a rational, well-informed consumer, you can keep emotions in check, keep a level head, and select the school that’s the best fit for your goals and budget.

Here are five ways to take a rational approach to the “Where should I go to college?” decision.

1. Keep Price Top of Mind

When comparing schools, know what you’re paying for, covering tuition, housing, meal plan, textbooks, and health insurance to start. Know the published rates per school, then factor in any potential scholarships, grants, or discounts available to you. Beyond the standard college costs, factor in ancillary fees, such as extracurriculars (e.g., gear for intramural sports), car insurance and parking (if you’ll be bringing your car to campus), and fraternity or sorority fees (if you plan to pledge). You can use any budgeting tool you prefer: a spreadsheet, an app, an old-fashioned notebook. Once you’re able to take a whole-picture price into account, you’ll get an informed sense of which school best aligns with your college budget.

2. Research Your Intended Major

If you’re planning on majoring in business, take a look at the respective business degree programs across the colleges that interest you. How is the business program at college X ranked on a national and regional scale? What’s the student-to-instructor ratio at each school’s business courses? How many business students graduate within four years? What are their job placement rates? Are there good professional networks for alumni from the program? Getting a good sense of the value of your intended major can demonstrate how the programs may compare when it comes to quality.  

3. Speak to Alumni

Alumni are often willing to share their (unfiltered) college experiences, including real talk about what they paid to attend, any financial aid they received, and career support. If you’re willing to do a little outreach, go beyond the university-recommended contacts and use social media to connect with other alums. You’ll get a broader sense of the on-campus experience and post-school life. Does the feedback align with your expectations? Did you find other students’ experiences encouraging–or were there any red flags?

4. Get to Know Your Financial Aid Contacts

When it comes to financial aid, the more investigative you are, the better. Get to know the financial aid teams at your top-choice schools, and find out the many types of financial aid available. If you’re not sure, ask! As Edmit co-founder Nick Ducoff recently told the Boston Globe, when it comes to tuition, “I don’t think people realize they can haggle like they’re in a bazaar, but they can.” Nothing ventured, nothing gained: Ask about tuition price matching, scholarships, and discounts, and get the discussion started. (And don’t forget to factor these into the price-comparison methods we discussed in Step 1.)

5. Compare Apples to Apples

While it may be tricky to do as close a comparison as possible across colleges, do your best to evaluate objectively where complementary factors align. For example, by comparing tuition from college X to tuition from college Y, job placement at college X major to job placement at college Y major, you’ll understand what you’ll be getting in terms of price, value, and quality–and understand what you can afford.   

Sign up for email alerts from Edmit and get a first look at our new college comparison tool!

-By Sarah Pascarella

Introducing Edmit

Our mission at Edmit is to provide college-bound students and their families with ultimate price and value transparency, helping them get the best deal possible from their top college choices.

Edmit was founded by innovative university leaders passionate about student success: Nick Ducoff, previously Vice President at Northeastern University, and Sabrina Manville, previously Assistant Vice President at Southern New Hampshire University. Our previous work has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in their Supplement to the National Educational Technology Plan titled “Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education”.

We started Edmit with the goal of empowering students with greater visibility and agency in the opaque, stressful college admissions process. Currently, students and families don’t know what scholarships or financial aid they will receive until months after the significant time and expense of applying to colleges. When students finally receive their aid letters, they often find it difficult to understand and evaluate them. Almost 20% of students turn down their top choice college because of price, when they perhaps could have received more aid.

Edmit is here to help by showing students the price they should pay for a college, enabling them to compare tuition and net pricing across colleges and using Edmit–for free–to get the best deal possible.

We’re going to work every day towards:

  • Empowering students to make informed decisions about one of the largest and most important purchases they’ll make in their life – college; and
  • Providing colleges more effective ways to find great students and engage directly with them on price, in order to attract students that will be satisfied and successful.

Please visit http://www.edmit.me to learn more and sign up for the pilot! We can’t wait to help you succeed!

Nick & Sabrina

P.S. We’d love to hear from you. Our emails are our first name <at> edmit.me.