Financing a College Education

With cost of attending a private college or university approaching $50,000 a year, it is important that families talk about financial considerations before the college application choices are fully determined. You should initiate these discussions with your student now, before the process has gotten well under way, so that your student will know from the outset whether cost will play a part in which colleges he or she can choose. Some colleges are asking students to take on large debt to fund their education at that school. It is important to think ahead of time about how much debt is reasonable for your child to take on. If scholarships are going to be necessary in allowing your child to attend college, you and your child should start researching now to see what kinds of scholarships are available as dates for application quickly pass. For a family where cost will play a big part in the decision on where to attend, it is wise to include in the list for application a “financial safety” - a college where the price of attendance is affordable regardless of what financial awards may be made.


There are resources available to parents and students to help them determine how much it might cost to attend particular colleges. Each college is now required to make available a “net price calculator” by which a family can estimate how much the cost of attendance will be. The calculator is designed to give you an early estimate of your eligibility for grants and/or scholarships if the student is accepted to that college. Always be very careful that the information you put into a “net price calculator” is accurate, so that you get a valid impression of the ultimate cost of attending that particular college. If you have questions about net price or general financial aid at any particular college, do not hesitate to directly contact that school’s financial aid office to ask questions even if your child has not yet filed an application.


Although need is determined by a federal formula which all colleges will adhere to, that does not necessarily determine how much a college will offer a student in financial aid to meet the cost of attendance. It is possible that colleges could “gap” a student which means that they would recognize the family’s need for financial help, but they would not meet that need in its entirety. It would then be expected that the student would pick up the difference through loans or other sources of tuition money. Loans are considered to be part of financial aid. If you receive financial aid from Lawrence Academy, do not expect that colleges will offer you the same terms, since the methods and priorities for determining financial aid allocations may be different at the college level.


There is a full description of financial aid and the procedures for applying for it in Chapter 8 (Paying for College) in The College Counseling Handbook, on the Lawrence Academy website. For more help in researching and planning the financing of a college education,  please visit our Financial Resources page.

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