By: Denise Walker, College Counseling
Kindergarten to college, it happens in the blink of an eye. Therefore, it is importantto start saving for college early. Speak with your financial advisor about retirement, college savings, and investments early in the planning process. There are many ways to fund college, and there isn’t one clear path. Let’s discuss some of these options….
The cost of college tuition continues to increase each year, but college costs are much more than tuition. College costs can also include: orientation fees, freshman fees, campus fees, room and board, books, a meal plan, lab fees, transportation fees, athletic fees, tech fees, and commencement fees. These fees don’t even include the cost of visiting colleges throughout the college search process. Needless to say, college is expensive. However, there are things that can be done to relieve some of the financial burden with early planning.
Students can increase their chances of receiving tuition assistance, scholarships, merit aid, and grants by earning good grades in high school. Most colleges set grade point average (GPA) minimums for students to obtain, or keep, tuition assistance. Encouraging strong study skills and attention to strong academic performance is key.
What is tuition assistance? There are several types of tuition assistance, including grants, merit based aid, scholarships, work-study, and loans. Tuition assistance can consist of any combination of these. Scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. Work-study programs enable students to work part-time at the college. Loans should be a last resort and MUST be repaid, usually with interest.
How can you help? Work with your child to help him or her develop good study habits. Stress the importance of studying and taking courses that will set them up for success. Encourage them to compete in local essay contests in high school, as many award cash prizes. The scholarship process should never hinder a student’s academic success; rather it should be an ongoing process.
We all know procrastination is every teenager’s middle name. This is where the parent’s encouragement and attentiveness to what their child is doing is imperative. There are scholarships for every student; they just require time and attention to detail. Every child’s maturity level and drive is different. However, as a general rule, junior and senior year seem to be the best time to start looking at scholarships.
The cost of college depends on choices you and your family make. Become familiar with terms like FAFSA and the CSS Profile. It is also important to know if there are in-state benefits such as the HOPE Scholarship or the Tennessee Promise Scholarship. Tennessee residents can earn the HOPE Scholarship, a scholarship worth $16,000 over four years, if they graduate with a 3.0 (GPA) or score a 21 on the ACT. The Tennessee Promise will pay for a community college or trade school if the student satisfies the requirements and meets the deadlines.
Remember, it is important for families to discuss the cost of college, and to consider and plan what works for your individual family.