Why Paying for College is More Intimidating than Buying a House

boy scared of idea of paying for collegeYou’ll often hear the media talk about college costs spiraling out of control. There’s usually something about how it will be the second largest purchase a family makes after buying a house. And because of student loans, a lot of graduates are finding that college was their largest purchase because they can’t afford to buy a house. The reality is that for most families figuring out how to pay for college is pretty intimidating, much more intimidating than buying a house.

After all, when you buy a house you have a bank that will tell you exactly how much it will loan you. You can’t just go off and buy a mansion if you don’t have the money but the truth is that you can do exactly that when paying for college.

Most people have to buy a house within a certain distance from home simply as a practical matter. After all, few people can commute from state to state. No such limitations when looking at colleges.

Should you find yourself competing with other potential buyers when buying a house, you know that if you have the highest bid, you’ll get the house. For students looking at competitive colleges, it’s not really clear how the college (the seller) will decide who has the winning bid.

And even once you buy a house, you usually have the chance to pay a professional to inspect the house to make sure you’re getting what was promised. Yeah, there’s nothing even close in terms of college admissions.

Yet, there are things families can to get an affordable, quality college education. I’m not talking about funding a 529 plan for your two-year old, although that is always a good idea. Nor am I suggesting you start playing the lottery or start some sort of fund-me campaign on the internet. I’m talking about things that parents for high school freshman, sophomores, and juniors can do right now to make sure they can afford to send their kids to college.

The concept is really pretty simple, find the right college.

There are 300 colleges that provide 90% or more of freshman with average institutional grants of $15,000 or more. There are at least 35 public universities that provide an average merit award of $5,000 or more to 20% or more of freshman without any financial need. If you’re looking for need-based aid, there are at least 53 colleges that have acceptance rates of 40% or higher and meet at least 90% of student need.

Here’s the hard part. The student actually has to apply to them in order to receive the financial aid. I get it, you don’t see how hard can that be.

Actually, it’s harder than you think. Because too many families don’t really start thinking about financial aid until after students receive their financial aid awards. And you don’t get the award until after you’ve applied to the college. So if you wait until you actually get the award letter, it’s way too late to apply to the schools more likely to provide you with generous financial aid.

There’s another reason why students often don’t apply to schools most likely to provide them with financial aid. They tend to be schools friends and family have never heard of. That doesn’t mean they aren’t any good. But it can be hard to pull away from the lime light of prestige and reputation and many students simply can’t. So they don’t apply to other schools and end up paying a lot more for name recognition than for any real value added to their education.

If you’re willing to seriously start looking for colleges that meet your family’s academic and financial needs, then you need to register for the Roadmap to Cutting College Costs. This class will provide you with the information you need to target quality colleges at affordable colleges. This is something that can’t wait until the senior year. Finding the right college can be the difference in paying over $50,000  a year in tuition compared to $35,000. But it all depends on applying to the right schools to begin with. Don’t miss the next class starting on February 1st-reserve your seat now.

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