Kim Clark, US News & World Report's college cash guru, has dispensed critical pay-for-college advice I feel majorly compelled to pass along. Indeed, there are 4 key principles that you and your child should understand in order to save as much money as possible on college tuition. Respect these rules and you're on your way.
- 1. Grades matter more than ever. The better the student, the more college options the student will have and the more likely it is the student will receive scholarships or win admission to a low-cost school. Parents wanting to motivate their sophomores and juniors can direct them to college websites such as this one, this one, or here. Each of these sites clearly shows the reality that the better the grades and test scores, the bigger the scholarship.
- 2. Early birds will get more scholarship worms . Next fall's high school seniors need to start applying for scholarships AND admission to low-cost schools in the early autumn—before November 30. And they need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon as possible each January, because some aid is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.
- 3. Students should apply to at least a couple of affordable schools. Anyone who applies just to one "dream" school should prepare for heartbreak. Colleges know (from the FAFSA) what other schools students are applying to. Some aid officers will lower an aid award if they know the student doesn't have any alternative. (Here is Clark's list of the public schools that score the highest in USNWR's rankings of reputation, graduation rates, and selectivity.)
- 4. Students should apply to at least a couple of generous schools. Some of the most expensive schools by sticker price also give out huge scholarships and can actually be cheaper, in the long run, than public schools for many students.
Even if your kid is only in middle school, remember there is no such thing as too much preparation--financial or otherwise--for college!
Have you started saving for your child's college tuition?