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Finding a Way to Pay

Many families are shocked when they find their student’s dream school costs $55,000, $60,000 or more. A clear understanding of the student’s aid options is a must. And for many wealthier families, merit money will prove the key for their students.

First, the basics: The two largest sources of college financial aid are the federal government and the colleges themselves. For federal grants or subsidized loans, parents fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and an algorithm determines how much the family should pay. There are strict limits on the amounts a student can receive or borrow from these federal programs. At most the feds will cover about $10,000/year. A great majority of students cannot afford a private college education with federal aid alone.

Thus, the second major source of aid: the colleges themselves. Many of the most selective (and most wealthy) colleges try to make sure that each admitted student can afford to attend; they advertise that they will meet 100% of each admitted student’s demonstrated financial need. No matter how accomplished, your student will never get merit aid at Swarthmore, Harvard, Carleton or Stanford. At any of these and several dozen other schools, if you can afford to pay, you will be required to pay.

But the large majority of U. S. colleges do not promise to meet full need, and they don’t expect talented students – no matter what their family background – to pay full price either. Each institution has its own goals for constructing a class, and one of their most useful tools in attracting the students they want is offering a discount on the cost of attendance. That is what merit aid really is. More than 85% of colleges offer merit money, and the average discount amounts to about half off tuition. Respected institutions like Rhodes College, Denison College, American University, and Case Western provide double-digit awards to more than 25% of their students. It can pay big bucks to be the applicant that the college really wants!

If you want to increase your student’s chances of receiving a merit award, give me a call at 847-660-8625, or fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page. I look forward to hearing from you!

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