What’s your initial first reaction to the question, “What is a community college?”
They’re affordable? They’re primarily for commuter students? Yeah, true, but there’s more to it than that.
First of all, it might not even cross your mind that there are similarities — not just vast differences — between a community college, liberal arts college and a university.
Finally, there’s value in visiting all types of colleges, even if you think your child knows what kind of college he wants to attend. Do your due diligence and visit before you commit to a college. In the meantime, I’ll give you some solid information about community colleges to guide you.
What is a Community College?
Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees, certificate programs and vocational training. Your child might choose to go directly into the workforce after his or her degree or might choose to pursue a four-year degree after community college.
An associate’s degree is an undergraduate degree that usually takes two years to complete. Here are the common degree types you can get: associate of arts, associate of science or associate of applied science.
Here are a few career paths that require a two-year degree (in case you’re looking for some ideas!):
- Registered nurse
- Air traffic controller
- Pharmacy tech
- Medical assistant
- Dental hygienist
- Dental assistant
- Radiologic technologist
Certificate programs are short-term, non-degree programs that usually take between six months and a year to complete. You may be able to take classes in the evenings or on weekends, which can be handy if someone is trying to juggle other responsibilities, like a job.
Why would you want to get a certificate program? Let’s say your student wants to learn something new that will help that future career. But you’re not interested in taking the classes necessary to get a degree.
Here are a few career paths that require a certificate degree instead of an associate’s degree:
- Auto mechanics
- Construction trades
- Computer and information services
- Business and office management
Let’s say your child’s interested in business management. Here are a few different ways your child’s interest in business management could shake out at a community college:
- Management: Associate degree
- Accounting clerk: 1-year certificate
- Accelerated accounting: Less than 1-year certificate
- Entry-level accounting clerk: Career pathway certificate
See how it’s possible to have several options? You won’t have to get a two-year degree if you don’t want to.
How are Community Colleges Different from Other Types of Institutions?
Here are a few other major types of postsecondary institutions:
- A public (or state) university receives significant public funds from the government of that state.
- A private university is not funded by the government.
- A liberal arts college is smaller than either of these types of institutions and is also not government funded.
All states in the United States have public and private colleges and universities.
Community college instructors spend most of their time teaching and working with students. They usually don’t spend as much time working on research as their counterparts at four-year public research institutions. Professors at large research universities spend a great deal of time conducting original research. They often spend less time teaching.
Liberal arts colleges offer four-year bachelor’s degrees. Professors at liberal arts colleges teach broad-based courses instead of the specific training you’ll find at a community college. They offer classics like history, mathematics, art and English — you won’t find majors like industrial technology or welding at a liberal arts college.
Professors also spend most of their time teaching instead of conducting research. Liberal arts colleges typically offer:
- Small class sizes
- Accessible professors
- No teaching assistants
- A focus on undergraduate education, rather than a full focus on research and graduate education (this means that professors with a terminal degree in their field teach classes)
Community college students on a four-year track can elect to attend a liberal arts college, private university or large public university. You’ll be a transfer student if you continue your studies at a four-year college or university.
Most community colleges are commuter colleges. This means that most students do not live on campus. In contrast, private colleges and universities in particular offer a residential community.
The most glaring difference between a high school diploma, associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree could be how much you can earn over a lifetime. Here’s a quick snapshot, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce:
- High school diploma: $1.3 million
- Associate’s degree: $1.7 million
- Bachelor’s degree: $2.2 million
Obviously, money isn’t everything. Maybe your child’s lifelong dream has always been to become a dental hygienist. Don’t let these figures scare both of you away. Many associate’s degrees can result in an excellent salary and offer great lifetime earnings potential.
Pros and Cons of a Community College
There are several reasons students choose to attend a community college — and there are also several cons your child may want to seriously consider.
- Affordable tuition
- Flexible schedule
- Can be a good way to transition from high school to college
- Small class sizes
- Offer the convenience of living at home
- Can help you figure out what you want to study
- May give you a chance to strengthen your grade point average
- Curriculum is more limited and less rigorous
- Student life is less robust
- Commuter school isn’t for everyone
- Professors with a terminal degree in their field aren’t usually what the norm at a community college.
What are your child’s highest priorities? For example, let’s say your kid’s looking for an active social life and a challenging curriculum. In that case, a community college might not be a great fit. On the other hand, if your child’s priority is to save money and live at home, then a community college could be your best choice.
It also may be a great option right now. Community college is a great first step if you’re not interested in navigating coronavirus far away from home.
How to Apply to a Community College
Applying to a community college is a little more cut-and-dried than writing college essays for Ivy League schools. You can just decide which school you’d like to attend and apply.
Step 1: Do your research.
It’s true that it’s super-easy to find a community college to attend — chances are, there’s one in your town. Just make sure that the community college offers the program you want. Let’s say you plan to study robotics but you find that your local community college doesn’t have that program. It’s not going to make much sense for you to go to school there, is it?
Check out the community college’s website, schedule a college visit and visit the campus. Ask good questions on your tour. You can do all of this before you apply — or you can apply first and then visit a community college. You may feel most comfortable with a mask on or opt for a virtual tour right now.
Step 2: Fill out the application.
Your child will be able to find the community college application on its website — most community colleges have their own application portals. Find the “Apply” button. You’ll have to fill out many of the same details on each application:
- Address, including state of residence
- High school
- Goals in college, such as an associate’s degree or certificate
Your child may be required to prove residency in the state. Your child may need to provide proof of residence through a:
- Driver’s license
- Bank account information
- Voter or vehicle registration
- Your taxes
Contact the community college admission office if you’re not sure what your child needs to provide.
Note: Your child’s transcripts will be enough to prove residency. As long as your child attends high school in the same state as the community college for at least a year, that will be sufficient evidence that your child is a resident.
Step 3: Submit transcripts.
You won’t need to get letters of recommendation, write an essay or send in your SAT or ACT scores. You’ll only need to show the school your child’s high school transcripts.
Submit those transcripts if your child hasn’t yet graduated from high school. Doing so will prove that your child intends to graduate from high school. Ask your child’s school counselor to send transcripts to the community college.
How Much Does a Community College Cost?
Great question. Simply put, the average in-state tuition and fees at community colleges were $3,660 in 2018-2019. This is the lowest cost among all higher education sectors, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. This compares to $10,230 for in-state students at four-year public universities and $26,290 for out-of-state students at four-year public universities. The cost to attend a private, nonprofit four-year institution in 2018-2019 was $35,830, according to that same report.
What kind of financial aid can your student get at a community college? First, you’ll have to file the FAFSA for need-based financial aid.
- Grants: Financial aid that you don’t have to pay back.
- Work-study: You can get a job at the community college you attend. Just like a regular job, you get to collect a check for the hours you work.
- Loans: Financial aid that you have to pay them back with interest.
Want to learn more about how to get need-based aid? Check out the basic eligibility requirements.
Does a Community College Fit Your Student’s Needs Now?
A year ago, your student may never have even thought about the possibility of attending a community college. However, the world has changed — and there are so many paths your child can go to become an accountant, doctor or journalist.
It doesn’t have to look like this anymore:
HIGH SCHOOL —–> FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE —-> PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL —–> CAREER
It can look like this:
HIGH SCHOOL —-> GAP YEAR —-> WORK FOR A YEAR —–> COMMUNITY COLLEGE —-> FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE —-> CAREER
What is deferred in college admission?
“Deferred” means that a college or university hasn’t finished reviewing your child’s admission and will decide on your child’s admission status at a later date.
Deferred admission usually happens in two different ways: When an early decision applicant goes into the regular applicant pool and when a regular applicant must submit more records or materials in order for the college or university to make a final decision about the applicant’s credentials.
In this article, we’ll discuss “What does deferred mean in college?” and what to do if your child gets deferred from college.
What is a Deferred Admission College Decision?
What does deferred admission mean, in more detail?
The National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) defines a “deferral” like this: a student retains eligibility in the regular admission pool but is not admitted.
When a college or university defers admission, application deferred meaning simply means that the admission committee at that particular school wants to review your child’s application against the Regular Decision pool of applicants. Regular Decision refers to an admission round where students submit their application non-binding (which means they don’t have to attend if accepted) typically by January and receive an admission decision by late March or early April. They have until May 1 to accept or decline the offer of acceptance.
Students who end up with a deferred admission start out applying for admission in a few ways — Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA) or Restrictive Early Action (REA). Let’s take a quick look at the definitions and learn more about the various admission types:
- Early Decision (ED): If your child applies ED, the decision is binding. Your student must attend that particular college and withdraw applications to any and all other schools. Students can apply ED to just one other college.
- Early Action (EA): EA, which is not binding, means your child can apply to other colleges and does not have to attend if accepted.
- Restrictive Early Action (REA): The not-binding REA allows students to take until May 1 to make a decision but cannot apply early to any other college — including ED, EA or REA.
Your student may feel disappointed about not getting an outright acceptance, but it’s important to stay focused on the positives — most importantly, that the college still wants to continue “getting to know” your student. Your child is still in the running! In fact, you should think of it this way: Schools often don’t know what the level of competitiveness of their applicant pool will look like in the Regular Decision round, so they want to hold back applications in order to compare them.
Some early applicants go into the regular applicant pool. The admission committee will give them a second chance with a new look at them. That way, they can look at strong applicants in the context of the regular application pool. This is a good thing because the regular applicant pool usually isn’t as weighty (aka competitive) as the early applicant pools.
Here’s another perk: Your child can submit updates, such as final semester grades, leadership accomplishments and others that they couldn’t submit before because it was too early in the application process.
Why Do Colleges Defer Students?
Colleges defer students for several reasons, including the fact that they are not ready to make a final decision about your students’ applications. They may have also had a huge surge of early applications and need to defer a large group of applicants who are “on the bubble” — those who are not automatic shoo-ins but still admissible and viable as candidates. Admission offices might also expect a surge of applications for Regular Decision and want to keep spots open for the right candidates.
Now, to make things seem more confusing, you may have also heard of “deferred enrollment.” Note that this means that a student decides to defer admission on their own after acceptance into an academic program. For example, a student may choose to defer admission in order to take a gap year.
Is a Deferral a Rejection?
No, a college deferral is not a rejection. It also does not mean that anything at all is wrong with your child’s application. However, your child might think of it as similar to a rejection, and it’s important to help them understand that a deferral offers them an opportunity to continue to prove their worth to the college or university that issued the deferral.
Harvard says the following about “What does deferred mean?” within its frequently asked questions, “It is impossible to predict individual admission decisions. Past students whose applications were deferred have been admitted at various rates, often approximating the rate for Regular Decision candidates. Over the next few months, your application will be reviewed again, supplying another opportunity for eventual admission.”
How to Handle a Deferral
Let’s take a look at a few steps to handle a deferral if your child gets one.
Step 1: Learn what the college needs to know.
Some colleges share that they would like to learn more information about your student, such as asking for an updated transcript, newer test scores or an update on extracurricular activities.
A college might also firmly state that deferred students should not submit additional application materials. If that’s the case, your child should not submit anything else — not following directions can ruin their chances of gaining admission.
If the college allows you to send additional materials, here’s what you can do next:
Your child will have to gather all the requested materials, just like they did the first time around. However, everything will need to go up a notch. Don’t submit test scores if they are worse than previous scores, and work to get incredible letters of recommendation that are absolutely fantastic. Do whatever you can to encourage your child to go all out after the deferral — not lose momentum. It can be easy to lose enthusiasm after a deferral, but don’t.
If you or your child have specific questions about the materials to submit, call your child’s admission counselor (you can find territory assignments on the college’s website) and have a candid conversation about the materials. The admission counselor will not be able to give you or your child any guarantees regarding admission but will advise you about what to include and maybe even some tips on how to present it. They have your student’s best interests at heart.
Step 2: Have your student draft a letter.
Your student may already feel as if they’ve done a lot regarding admission to that particular institution. However, it’s time to write a professional letter to the director or dean of admission as well as to the admissions counselor.
Consider sending both an email and a hard copy of the letter in the mail. In the letter, one of the most important things your child should do involves explaining why you want to enroll in college. Above all else, colleges want to make sure you fit their school academically, but they also want to hear the magic words — “I want to attend your school because of these reasons…”
It may sound something like this:
My first-choice major at XYZ University is biochemistry, which combines my favorite science classes, biology and chemistry. I knew that I wanted my senior year schedule to follow a strong biochemistry program. After numerous conversations with alumni and my admissions counselor, Jackie Smith, I decided that I wanted to attend XYZ University. I believe that XYZ’s biochemistry program offers me the best opportunity to pursue my goals of becoming a pharmacist. I also plan to pursue the Science Club and undergraduate research opportunities through Professor Mei’s annual attendance at the molecular biology symposium.
I’m excited about all the possibilities available to me at XYZ — the college remains my first choice. If admitted in the regular decision round, I intend to enroll at XYZ.
Since I applied Early Decision, I have become president of the biochemistry club at my high school and began volunteering at our local hospital.
Show that your child will enroll at the school. Restate why the college makes academic and social sense and reference various opportunities your child will get involved in. Let the admissions committee know about those achievements.
Step 3: Ask for letters of recommendation.
As you already know, it’s important to pull out all the stops, so when your child needs additional scholarship recommendations, you should carefully consider just who will do it. You want this person to be able to talk up your student’s character, leadership skills and other qualifications. Who has developed a personal relationship with your child and who can write a letter of recommendation for admission?
Look for someone who can share your child’s character, qualities and future potential. Letter writers really do have a big job — they have to understand the gravity of the deferral recommendation letter, factors that appeal to the committee, deliver a well-written letter and more. They have to make it succinct, compelling and impossible to resist, which is why your child should choose the right person, ideally someone who knows deferred meaning college and what is at stake.
Step 4: Recheck the application.
Your child has done a lot up to this point on the application and it may seem like a major heave to look at everything again. However, it’s worth putting in the extra effort to make sure the application checks all the boxes.
Have your student check the grammar, change some language from active voice to passive voice, have your child read it out loud. As with everything else, it’s time to get this absolutely right.
Step 5: Get comfortable with other schools.
Even if your child takes all the above advice, remember that they could still get rejected in the regular admission cycle. Does your child have other schools on the list? Get to know other schools.
If your child has applied to four or five, what are the pros and cons of each of them? What types of admission do they require, such as rolling admission? You may need to go through the process of visiting other institutions if you’ve been focused on this one. Therefore, consider setting up visits through the admissions office at various schools. You may even need to take a look at other schools by visiting a second time.
Can You Turn a Deferral into an Acceptance?
Absolutely! Once you’ve deciphered the “deferred from college meaning,” it’s important not to lose heart or lose sight of the continued possibilities. Your child still has a chance with the college.
Learn more about the length of time that admission officers read applications.
Understand How to Handle Deferrals Ahead of Time
You likely don’t want to think negatively about your child’s acceptance and how it might turn into a deferral. However, don’t focus so much on the deferred college meaning.
Instead, do everything you can to help your student work toward an acceptance but remember that colleges may not want students to submit additional application materials. If that’s the case, follow the college’s instructions to a T — not doing so can spell out an automatic rejection from the college.
Let’s take a look at a few frequently asked questions about deferrals.
Is it better to be waitlisted or deferred?
Waitlisted is different from a deferral. Waitlisting means that your child goes into a type of “holding tank,” meaning that your child may or may not get admitted. At some schools, those on the waitlist almost never get admitted. If waitlisted, your child should start making plans at other schools, which is why students always need a backup list.
Is it better to be deferred or rejected?
A deferral is not the same thing as a rejection. A rejection means that the school will not offer your child admission at this time, while a deferral means that your child’s application will go into the Regular Decision pool of applicants. They want to compare your child’s application against those applicants in the Regular Decision pool.
It’s worth mentioning that a rejection doesn’t have to be permanent. Your child can attend another institution for a semester or a year (such as a community college) and transfer to the original school to which your student applied.
Does deferred usually mean rejected?
No, deferred doesn’t mean an automatic rejection, and it’s important to remember that. Your child still has a shot at admission. Colleges defer students because they are not ready to make a final decision, may have had a large number of early applications or may expect a large number of applications in the Regular Decision round and want to keep spots open for the right candidates.
It does not mean an automatic rejection at all. However, prepare your student to tap into backup options.
When you’re taking a look at the full costs of college, room and board happens to be part of the cost of attendance. But what is room and board, exactly? What does room and board include in college? How does it fit into the overall costs?
These are great questions. Taking care of college costs may be one of the most expensive (and one of the most important!) experiences you’ve ever paid for, and in this situation, you may feel as if you have to take an X-Acto knife to your budget to pare as much as possible from it to make room and board payments.
In this article, we’ll dive right into room and board meaning as well as answer the question, “What does room and board include in college?” We’ll also cover how to learn the cost of room and board, whether you have to pay room and board (and how to pay for it!). We’ll also walk through steps to make it less expensive.
What is Room and Board?
Room and board: Quite simply, it refers to the roof over a student’s head (room) in the residence hall and the food a student eats at college (board). Besides that, what are the fringe benefits? What is included in room and board?
As you might imagine after taking visits to colleges, your child will encounter a wide variety of types of residence halls or “dorm living” — large rooms, small rooms, residence halls for solely first-year students, others that are more apartment-style living. Some schools have required residential living on campus.
College rooms typically come furnished with beds, desks, chairs, bookshelves, dressers and closets, not to mention lounge spaces, restrooms, electricity, heat, and internet access. You may have to pay more for fancier on-campus digs, which might include flashier apartment-style living and amenities like fitness centers.
Check the differences between costs of various housing options on campus. The admission office or financial aid office should be able to help you and your child iron out those specific costs.
What is the “board” in room and board?
“Board” refers to a meal plan, or a pre-set number of meals you can purchase prior to the start of an academic semester in college. Colleges also have a wide variety of meal plan options that are preloaded on an ID card. Many meal plans at many colleges offer meals for seven days. For example, a student might choose from a 13-meal plan, where they get 13 meals throughout the week, or a 20-meal plan, where they get 20 meals throughout the week. This is typically called a standard/basic meal plan.
However, students may be able to choose from a much smaller meal plan, such as seven meals per week. Note that some schools do not allow students to opt out of the meal plan, particularly if schools have a residential requirement.
Some schools even offer unlimited meals, but most function as a per meal/swipe limit or a point plan.
- Per meal/swipe plan: The per meal/swipe plan allows your child to swipe every time to use up their allotment. For example, your may use a “swipe” for a granola bar or a huge buffet meal — they would “give up” that swipe, no matter how little or how much they eat.
- Point plan: Purchasing meal points means that you purchase a certain number of points ahead of time and points get deducted from the “collection of points.” For example, if your child eats that granola bar for lunch, it would “cost” them fewer points than the big buffet meal.
How Do You Learn the Cost of Room and Board?
Most schools list room and board right on their websites, so you don’t have to guess where the “room and board” comes in among the other costs. It is embedded in the cost of attendance at most schools.
Schools typically list the tuition, required fees and other parts of a financial aid award very clearly and in order on their websites. Some people call this the “cost of attendance” (COA), which also includes room and board. In addition to room and board, COA estimates other educational expenses such as:
- Tuition and fees
- Personal expenses
Learn more: 6 Ways to Handle a Disappointing Financial Aid Award
Do You Have to Pay Room and Board?
Yes, you have to pay for room and board. Naturally, the total cost of room and board depends on the type of campus housing and the food plan your child chooses. The cost of living on campus, according to the most recent data (for 2020 to 2021) from the National Center for Education Statistics, was $6,897 for all institutions. On average, the board for colleges cost $5,335 for all institutions during the same timeframe.
How do you find out your COA? You can find out the total cost of attendance on the school’s website. However, you can drill in deeper and use a net price calculator, which gives you a more accurate cost of the college aligned with what it will cost your child based on your personal financial situation. You can find a net price calculator on every college and university website — it’s required by law.
How to Pay for Room and Board
Let’s take a quick look at how to pay for room and board from the standpoint of truly understanding your child’s financial aid award. We’ll also help you get an idea of the different types of financial aid opportunities available to your child, including scholarships, grants, loans and work-study.
Step 1: Understand the financial aid award.
One of the most important things you can do: Understand the financial aid award from top to bottom. It’s important to have a firm grasp on how much a particular school will cost.
Sometimes, various types of aid get lumped together. For example, it might look like your child has received a huge financial aid award, but when you peel back each layer, you may realize that a few of those “awards” are actually loans. Some schools also work-study as part of the award calculation. I’m really not a fan of this tactic because it looks like you get a guaranteed lump sum of money, but that’s not true — your child must earn work-study money by working a job on campus.
In addition to that, some financial aid awards do not include the total cost. When financial aid awards don’t publish the total cost right on the financial aid package, you might have to do a little digging. Look carefully at a school’s costs page online, or better yet, call, to be absolutely sure that you’re considering all costs, such as lab, orientation, athletics, campus, transportation fees, etc. You may not find out about these “nasty” surprises till later.
It’s also a good idea to consider the fees and interest rates for loans. Use an interest rate calculator to get a sense of how much it will cost you for sure. Finally, remember that colleges also implement tuition increases each year but scholarships don’t always increase as tuition increases.
Ultimately, it’s important to really understand the full figure and what to expect.
Step 2: Apply financial aid toward room and board.
How does financial aid award actually work? You get a round COA, then apply individual situations to it. Specifically, this means that you apply scholarships, grants, work-study and loans to it. Therefore:
Cost of attendance (COA) – Financial aid = Your final costs
Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will get you started in the right direction. This means that your child will be considered for federal student loans, federal work-study and federal grants. I encourage every family to file the FAFSA no matter what, because you may be able to chip away at the costs using federal aid. Items such as work-study will not go on your child’s financial aid award if you don’t file the FAFSA. You must file the FAFSA in order to qualify.
Read more about how to get college paid for.
- Consider housing assistance grants. Some states offer housing expense grants for students, and it’s important to recognize that grants do not need to be repaid. Funding can depend on your state and your child’s school. Housing grants may require an application, including filing the FAFSA. Check with the financial aid office at schools, state department of higher education or more.
- Search for scholarships (including throughout college). Your child does not need to pay scholarships back (just like grants), but they can help cover the cost of room and board. Students can find scholarships through a wide variety of means, including through a college or university, through your local community (through clubs, organizations, religious groups, etc.) Need-based and merit-based scholarships can help you pay for room and board. Your child can also apply for scholarships throughout those college years — they’re not limited to just scholarships they get during their senior year of high school.
- Consider loans: Loans can help your child pay for college. Federal student loans give your child the best bang for their buck because they have the lowest interest rates and give them opportunities for forgiveness as well as other flexible repayment options such as income-driven repayment. Here are a few types of federal student loans you may need to be aware of:
- Direct Subsidized loans: The government pays the fixed interest rate (which means the interest rate doesn’t change) on need-based Direct Subsidized loans when your undergraduate child stays enrolled in college at least part time. Your child will also receive a grace period before they need to repay their loans after graduation.
- Direct Unsubsidized loans: The government does not pay the fixed interest rate on non-need-based Direct Unsubsidized loans, unlike in the case of Direct Subsidized loans. Unsubsidized loans go to undergraduate and graduate students.
- Direct PLUS loans: As a parent, you can take out a PLUS loan to pay for education costs when you need to pay for “the rest” of college costs. Graduate students can also take out PLUS loans for graduate school. However, you must have a decent credit score in order to qualify.
- Private student loans: If your child still needs more money to pay for college, they can tap into private student loans. They can have fixed or variable interest rates and various loan terms (which refers to the length of the payback period) but these rates may be higher than federal student loans. Your student also cannot access privileges related to forgiveness or other types of income-driven repayment plans with private loans.
Step 3: Consider other options.
It’s possible to think outside the box here. In many situations, your child doesn’t have to live on campus. If you and your child pencil out the costs and you find out that it’s cheaper to live off campus, it might actually be a good idea to approach an off-campus living situation.
Your child may also want to look into becoming a resident advisor (RA) in their second year of college. An RA is the leader of a portion of a residence hall, which means that they might mentor a handful of first-year students and help them get used to residence hall living. They might play games with them, organize on-campus group meals and oversee the behavior of residents on that floor. RAs typically receive free or discounted room and board. The amount of the discount varies from school to school.
In many cases, student RAs must maintain a certain GPA and continue to make academic progress throughout any given semester.
Step 4: Pay the bill for room and board.
Finally, the last step involves paying the final bill for room and board. Most colleges send the first semester tuition bill prior to the start of the academic year, like in July. You may also consider opting for a monthly payment plan, which divides up the months of the year that your child will attend school or spreads them out over the course of 10 or 11 months.
Make sure the school’s financial aid award captures the correct scholarships and other aid (particularly outside scholarships) before you pay the bill.
Is it Less Expensive to Live On or Off Campus?
At first glance, the cost of living off-campus may seem cheaper than room and board, but by the time you add up the additional costs, such as furniture you have to purchase, utilities, and purchasing your own groceries, you may get close to the cost of paying for room and board.
Iron out all the expenses between both with your child. It’s your child’s first foray into adulthood and it’s important to remember that some kids need the residence hall environment for a few years — some students are not yet ready for apartment living.
How to Make Room and Board Less Expensive
You likely have a little bit less maneuverability when saving on room and board in a residence hall because there aren’t dozens of ways to cut back. Your child’s only options may involve choosing a less expensive meal plan (which likely involves fewer meals) or a lower-cost dorm room.
However, there are quite a few ways your child can reduce expenses if they choose to live off campus:
- Put together a budget to monitor daily expenses.
- Get a roommate to share expenses.
- Choose lower-cost groceries or clip coupons and limit going out to eat.
- Cancel cable and opt for lower entertainment costs.
- Save on utilities (wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat) and turn out the lights.
- Choose a lower-cost apartment with fewer amenities.
- Shop for cheaper internet.
- Use public transportation.
- Limit use of credit cards.
- Brew coffee at home.
Encourage your child to get creative about saving money — college students are notoriously creative.
It’s Possible to Save Money on Room and Board
You can save money on room and board. It’s a good idea to compare costs by considering the answer to “What are room and board expenses?” and comparing on- and off-campus options side by side.
Furthermore, encourage your child to get as many scholarships and grants as possible, money that they don’t have to pay back.
Do college scholarships pay for room and board?
Yes, college scholarships pay for room and board. When you get a financial aid award, most money gets applied toward both tuition, room, board and fees, with the exception of certain scholarships such as full-tuition scholarships, which only apply to tuition.
Does room and board count as tuition?
Room and board is not the same as tuition. Tuition refers to the costs you pay for classes. Tuition varies from college to college, just as room and board varies from school to school. These costs can vary widely. For example, a liberal arts college may cost far more for tuition, room, board and fees than a community college.
College tuition costs continue to rise. Parents often struggle to manage the costs even with substantial financial aid, and students are (justifiably) fearful of the debt they’ll amass trying to pay their own way. The hope of course is that action will ultimately be...
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How do you help your child find the right college fit in October?
The college search is a process. It’s not like your child can usually apply, visit, get accepted and plunk down a deposit all in the same month. (If you can do that, my hat’s off to you! — Ha!)
Again, it’s a twisty road with lots of checkpoints along the way.
Senior parents, here’s what you need to know about how to look for colleges in October. (By the way, this is great information even for those parents who aren’t parents of seniors!)
1. File the FAFSA.
The FAFSA opened on October 1 and now’s the time to fill it out.
The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Colleges and universities use the FAFSA to consider your child for federal student aid. States and individual colleges and universities also use the FAFSA to award grants, scholarships and loans.
File the FAFSA as soon as possible — for federal aid, you must submit the FAFSA by 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2022.
Does that mean you get to veg out till June 29?
Because colleges also carry deadlines. Check with the college(s) your child’s interested in attending to understand their exact application deadlines.
2. Encourage your child to work on applications in advance — not at the last minute.
Most colleges evaluate regular applications between January through March. However, you’ll unearth a few different deadlines for specific admission types.
For example, early action and early decision applications require students to submit their materials well before the new year. Application deadlines show up during the — you guessed it — fall months! You might see a few mid-October through November deadlines at colleges that have an early action or early decision process.
Check — and double check — the admission deadlines for each college your child plans to apply. Even if the college uses rolling admission, it’s best to apply early so you know where your child stands in terms of merit-based scholarships and other financial aid early on.
3. Check out various other deadlines for specific colleges.
Your high schooler may not be done with just an application. You may uncover a few other dates to keep track of:
- Additional deadlines for honors programs
- More applications or deadlines for scholarships and financial aid
How to keep track of it all? Create an online calendar or spreadsheet to plan campus visits so you don’t — gasp! — miss key application dates for scholarships or financial aid.
4. Note ACT/SAT Adjustments
Does your student plan to take the ACT or SAT? Do a quick study on the latest testing information. Will the test be offered where your child normally planned to take it? What are the COVID-19 requirements?
If testing is not available in your area or you don’t meet the safety requirements, know that many schools have gone test optional.
Note: Even if your child’s a senior, it’s not too late to take one of these tests.
5. Start Narrowing Your College List
Your child can only go to one school, right? Time to start narrowing the list! Ask your child a few questions to get closer to a decision:
- Do you want or need to be closer to home? (Colleges close by may not have popped up on your kiddo’s radar before!)
- Do you think you prefer a small liberal arts college or a large university?
- Would you prefer a large city, suburban area, rural community, etc.?
- Do you think you want community college first?
- Are you interested in going to a school that’s currently all online?
- Are you comfortable with some loans?
- How hard do you want to work for scholarships if schools don’t offer much merit-based aid?
- What do you think you might major in during college?
- What types of extracurricular activities would you like to participate in?
Next, divide schools into “safety,” “match” and “reach” schools based on the admission criteria at each school:
- Safety: A safety school means that based on a school’s admission criteria, it’s likely that your child’s academic credentials are way above the average incoming freshman range. A lot of people call this school a “back-up.” It’s a good idea to make sure your child can proudly say, “I’m okay with attending my safety school” — just in case.
- Match: A match school is one that your child is likely to get into based on a particular school’s admission criteria. Your child is likely to be admitted because his or her academic credentials are well within the average incoming freshman’s range. In other words, it’s more likely that your child will attend this school.
- Reach: A reach school is not a guaranteed shoo-in. Encourage your child to choose a school that’s not a complete pipe dream (your child can’t apply to Harvard with a 2.5 grade point average, for example).
Feel like you’re constantly bombarding your child with questions and all you get in return is “I don’t know!” or something along those lines? Remember, your child may not know the answer to some of these questions — this may be the first huge decision he’s ever made.
Elicit help from a guidance counselor, admission counselor or another individual you trust to help guide him through this experience.
6. Start Applying for Outside Scholarships
Outside scholarships include private scholarships and cash awards. Encourage your child to go for those $100 scholarships — they add up.
Totally ask the guidance counselor at your child’s school for insight. Here are a few other pointers:
- Go to area high schools and collect programs dating back up to four years ago. You can find the names of scholarships on that list, Google them and then BAM! Your kid’s got lots of local scholarships at her disposal.
- Contact various civic organizations in town, like the Elks club or Kiwanis club. They usually give away lots of scholarships.
- What types of scholarships does your company offer? Do other family members work for companies that offer scholarships as well?
- Ask your child about scholarship announcements at school. Ask for an email copy of these announcements, if possible, or ask where you can find them online.
- Check social media. Join Facebook groups or other social media groups that post scholarships. All it takes is a simple search!
- Look at scholarship search engines. Google “scholarships for writers,” for example. Use keywords to your advantage!
- If your child doesn’t look like a match for a specific scholarship, reach out to the scholarship committee and ask if your child can apply anyway. Maybe he’s just missing one tiny requirement.
I urge you to check out Scholarship System’s free webinar. Jocelyn of the Scholarship System is amazing — she’s turned getting scholarships into a complete system. She knows how to streamline the process so your child gets scholarship results.
7. Attend Virtual College Fairs
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, NACAC has canceled all Fall 2020 in-person fairs and pivoted to virtual programming. Find out details about 2020 Fall Virtual College Fairs. If you’re wondering how to look for colleges, this is a great place to start because your child can learn a lot about colleges from all over the U.S. from a comfy, squashy chair!
8. Visit Schools
Visit, visit, visit. I can’t stress the importance visiting schools. How to schedule a college visit?
- Talk over the type of visit your child wants. Talk to your child before you jump on the phone or set up a campus visit. What does your child want to get out of the visit? Does she want to meet with a faculty member or does that idea terrify her? Does she want what I call the “drive-by” experience — just tour and admission counselor?
- Call the admission office of a college or university. I heavily suggest calling the campus visit coordinator at that college or university instead of signing up online. It’s always better to talk to a live person. A computer can’t hear you talking about your child’s interest in biology, but a campus visit coordinator can — and can offer a one-on-one meeting with a biology major or professor.
- Understand your visit options. What are the options? Let’s say you want to visit on a specific date. Maybe the admission office isn’t doing personal campus visits that day — maybe there’s a group campus visit day.
- Consider a personal campus visit. This is my very favorite type of visit option! I love personal campus visits because they allow you and your child to do a visit that fits your child’s exact interests. It’s personalized! You can visit with anyone in the college you need to (professor, coach, student, etc.)
- Visit in person. I know it’s tempting to do a Zoom visit, but while Zoom is wonderful, it can’t take the place of an in-person visit.
Above All Else — Check In!
Take the temperature. How’s your child feeling about the process? It’s easy to become so absorbed in checking all the boxes and forget how your child feels. Start having those heart-to-heart chats!