Students researching colleges tend to have a set of questions they ask:

  • Is the college in the area I want to be?
  • Does it offer the major I want?
  • Is it the right size for me?
  • Does the campus feel like a place I could call home?
  • Are any of my friends applying here?

And every spring, I get calls from frantic parents trying to figure out how they’re going to pay for a college that ticks those boxes but doesn’t fit the family’s budget. Here are some additional questions to ask:

  • Does the college offer scholarships and grants I’m eligible for? If you’re not a candidate for need-based aid, look for colleges that offer merit scholarships. If you have financial need, apply to colleges that meet that need. Colleges offer net price calculators on their websites that can tell you approximately what your financial aid package might look like*; websites like CollegeData and College Navigator have aggregate information by college on both need-based and merit aid.
  • Besides automatic scholarship awards, are there other scholarships I can apply for? These might include scholarships offered by the student’s desired major or scholarships based on where you live or a parent’s occupation.
  • Are there costs besides listed tuition and fees that we should budget for? These might include lab fees or other supplemental fees specific to the student’s course of study or mandatory pre-orientation programs.
  • Will I get credit for my AP, IB or dual enrollment courses? If your college plan is to graduate in less than four years, check the college’s transfer credit policy to ensure that you’ll get college credit for college-level courses taken in high school. Google the school’s name and “transfer credit policy” to find out, or reach out to the admissions office.
  • How do students engage socially on campus? Are Greek life or social clubs something to budget for?
  • How easily can students get on-campus jobs, with or without work-study? What percent of students work at paid and unpaid internships during the summer?
  • What do activities or experiences we hope our student will pursue cost above and beyond regular costs? These might include study abroad, enrichment programs offered during the school year or during breaks or extracurricular pursuits like arts or athletics. Does the school offer grants to offset those costs?

Good news: my College Selection Research Worksheet helps you corral all this info for all the colleges you’re considering. Download it now!

* Note that due to delays resulting from FAFSA Simplification, net price calculators may or may give entirely accurate estimates. While the net cost estimate you get might not be perfect, it will at least show the degree to which the college meets financial need for students like you.

If you found this helpful, check out my College Financial Plan masterclass! The course leads you through the process of setting and discussing a college budget to finding colleges that fit your budget, appealing financial aid awards and so much more!