For most families with college-bound students, there is a lot of stress around paying for college. Not only is it very expensive, unless you know you are paying full tuition, the actual cost of college is not known until after you are accepted.
To reduce that stress, families should start by understanding how much a college is likely to cost before your student even applies. Remember, colleges are businesses that are trying to maximize profits. Admissions offices have very clear strategies for getting the most profit out of each incoming class. So, unless you want to pay full retail for college, you need some knowledge on your side to make a good decision.
Ideally, you want your student to apply to schools where he or she will be in the upper quartile (25%) of the incoming class. That is when your student is likely to get the maximum amount of financial and merit based aid. If your student is in the lower half of the class, your family will be paying full retail and often more than your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). See the table below for more details.
With this knowledge, does it make sense to pursue “stretch schools” like many guidance counselors suggest? That practically guarantees you will be paying more than your family can “afford” according to the federal government. And that leaves families much more stressed.
So, ensure that your student is picking schools where he or she will be a top 50% candidate for the incoming class. That is based primarily on SAT/ACT scores and GPA.
Want Additional Help to Reduce the Cost of College?
In addition to helping families figure out which colleges are likely to be a good fit financially, we help you calculate your EFC. Once you know your Expected Family Contribution, we help you develop effective strategies to keep the cost of college down for your family.