Q: My son is interested in going to a private four-year college, but I worry that we don’t have the money and I don’t want him to be stuck with a lot in loans when he graduates. What are some alternatives?
A: Your son can apply to private colleges in addition to State University of New York (SUNY) schools, which tend to be less expensive, and see what kind of financial aid he is offered. Keep in mind that applications come with application fees ($50-plus).
You must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and can go to their website at www.fafsa.ed.gov for more information.
In addition, some private colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, a service of the College Board. It’s more in-depth than the federal form, and there is a cost to complete it. Instructions for the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE can be found at http://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.
Once you apply and get your Student Aid Report back, you can determine one piece of the financial puzzle. If the financial aid package is not what you hoped, you can call the financial aid office at the colleges, see if more can be obtained and find out about scholarship or grant opportunities as well as work-study programs.
There are many scholarship opportunities available through your high school, prospective colleges and community agencies and organizations.
Your son should apply for as many scholarships for which he qualifies. As a caution, if scholarships ask you for money, be aware that these could be scams.
Another option that is increasingly popular because of the rising cost of college is to attend a two-year community college and then transfer to a four-year college for the last two years.
The first two years of college are largely core classes, required for graduation regardless of major chosen. A student can complete these first two years at a community college for less cost and then transfer. Transferring students need to communicate the classes taken at community college in anticipation of transferring to a four-year college to ensure compatibility. Many community colleges also offer dormitory-style living so that the college experience of “going away to college” is still available close to home.
There is a lot to consider in financial aid and determining what college pathway is best for your son. Your school counselor will be critical in helping you navigate these questions.
Anne-Marie Hughes is a local middle and high school guidance counselor. Send questions for Ask The Counselor to firstname.lastname@example.org.