We are now in our 10th year of college admissions and financial aid counseling, and while the economy is driving many to our front door, the reality is that even in booming economic times, many families wait until the senior year to figure out how they are going to pay for college. And many high schools don’t address financial cost of college at all.
No school should (but they often do) claim to be adequately informing parents about the college funding process if they're doing nothing more than telling students to fill out a FAFSA form, or holding the traditional "How to Complete Your FAFSA" workshop in December or January for parents of seniors. This is often parents' first exposure to Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
The result is that parents are missing out on huge amounts of scholarships and grants for which they would have qualified, had they only been educated. They commonly wind up having no idea how they're going to pay for college. Year to year we meet panic-stricken parents of seniors who, upon learning what they could have qualified for ask us: "Why didn't anyone tell us this sooner?"
We have found that high schools fall into three categories regarding this subject:
1. They do a fine job at understanding the college funding and financial aid process and in educating the parents early (the sophomore and junior years). We've observed that less than 5 percent of high schools fall into this category.
2. They realize that they don't have the resources to educate families on college funding, so they invite an expert to teach the families in the sophomore and junior years. We've observed less than 10 percent of high schools fall into this category.
3. They have no idea what they don't know about college funding and hold the traditional FAFSA workshop in the senior year. These are often the schools that erroneously claim to "have it covered".
The sad reality is that more than 85 percent of high schools (in our estimation) fall into this category. It's easy to see where your school falls. I encourage parents to be pro-active by contacting their student's guidance counselor by spring of the sophomore year and asking:
•When should we learn our EFC?
•How should EFC influence our college selection?
Their answers to these questions will reveal how well your school truly "has it covered".
For a chance to win a $1000 software package, sign up for one of our free local seminars in your local school. This month, we will be in Newport Harbor, Edison, and El Modena. If you would like us to speak in your local high school, shoot us an e-mail, at email@example.com.
For free seminars, WEBinars, and useful tools to help guide the college planning process, please go to www.GetCollegeFunding.org, and sign up for our "10 Mistakes Most Parents Make When Planning For College".