fbpx
Are College Tours Free?

Are College Tours Free?

College certainly isn’t free, what with the cost of tuition, room, board and fees, college applications, the cost of standardized tests and more. It’s easy to think that those are the only costs involved in the process, but they aren’t. 

So, in general, are college tours free? 

Yes and no. 

You don’t pay money to go on the college tour but the “extras” cost money. When your child visits college, you have to think about other costs — travel expenses, meal purchases and hotel visits. Consider the cost of visiting five schools. Flights, meals, parking and hotel rooms can cost into the hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars.

However, colleges and universities often invest their resources to make college visits absolutely free of charge for students.

Do College Tours Cost Money? 

No, tours themselves do not cost money, and generally, neither do college visits. In other words, you don’t have to pay a fee to the campus visit coordinator as soon as you step onto the threshold of the admission office. However, you might have to pay to park in the admissions office lot or a lot near the admissions office on campus. You might have to pay to eat lunch in the cafeteria. 

Let’s break down the definition of a college tour. College or university tours involve a walking tour of campus that lasts between 60 to 90 minutes. In these, a tour guide (typically a college student) takes you through academic buildings, residence halls, student lounges, cafeterias and more. 

A college visit refers to all the activities you do while you’re on campus, including the tour. For example, the full visit might include the following: 

  • Academic presentation
  • Meeting with faculty
  • Tour of campus
  • Meeting with admissions or financial aid
  • Eating lunch on campus
  • Meeting with an extracurricular advisor or coach

It’s worth asking how much you’ll pay in extra fees when you sign up for your visit. The campus visit coordinator or your admissions counselor will tell you what fees you’ll pay once you’re on campus. Overall, these direct fees shouldn’t cost a lot.

Which Types of Programs Offer Free College Visits?

Some colleges offer programs that guarantee that your child’s visit will cost nothing. Students may tap into a wide variety of options, but the tricky thing is that all colleges may offer different options. It’s also worth noting that colleges may not offer free programs for parents — only students. Let’s take a look at three main types of programs you may want to ask about: diversity fly-in programs, travel reimbursement and scholarships for college visits.

How do you find out about the opportunities available at colleges and universities? Easy! Just ask, referencing some of these program ideas/opportunities when you ask the admissions office.

Diversity Fly-in Programs

Colleges may want to develop their profiles by developing its minority population. Therefore, they may have something called fly-in weekends, diversity overnight programs or weekend immersions. Colleges may call them different things, but the point is that they cost nothing to attend for the entire visit — meals, the overnight visit, everything is free. Students will spend the night on campus with another student, eat meals in the cafeteria and experience college life side-by-side with another current student. 

Travel Reimbursement

Students who visit colleges (typically from out-of-state) might qualify for travel reimbursement, such as flight or gas expenses. Typically, the admissions office accepts receipts and then sends a check to reimburse you, the parent. Colleges and universities may require your child to live a certain distance away from the school in order to qualify for travel reimbursement. For example, you probably can’t expect to get travel reimbursement if you and your student live just one hour away.

Scholarships and Grants for College Visits

Some colleges and universities will give you a scholarship or grant for making an official campus visit. However, it’s likely that you’ll need to enroll in exchange. For example, a school might state on its website, “If you make an official campus visit, you’ll receive $1,000 per year for up to four years when you attend XYZ College.” Look into the requirements, such as visiting by a specific date. 

Who is Eligible for Free College Visits? 

In general, free college visits are set up for those who would find the cost of college visits too expensive or for underrepresented students on campus. Colleges would like to underrepresented students who fit certain backgrounds, such as the following: 

  • First-generation college students: First-generation (also sometimes abbreviated “first gen”) means that parents of college students didn’t attend a four-year college, regardless of whether prior generations (including grandparents) did.  
  • Lower-income students: “Low income” refers to a family’s taxable income for the preceding year that did not exceed 150% of the poverty level amount.
  • Minority racial and ethnic backgrounds: Colleges and universities may also put efforts toward recruiting underrepresented minorities. Hispanic undergraduates have increased at four-year colleges and universities since 1996 (their numbers have jumped from 6% to 16% in 2016). Hispanics are now the largest minority group at minimally selective four-year institutions.

What Do Free College Visits Typically Entail? 

Free college visits for students may include a wide variety of options. Your child may have great leeway in choosing the activities they want to do on campus. Other schools may completely structure the visit, particularly if no family members tag along. Your child may not have much choice about the times and arrangement of activities, whether it includes an academic presentation, meeting with faculty members, tour and more. The college may strictly weave these activities into what your child does.

The timing may matter as well. Fly-ins and diversity visit programs typically occur in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year. Colleges may also conduct fly-in and visit programs during the spring semester of your child’s senior year to help your student ultimately decide where to attend college — these ultimately give them a last chance to market the college.

How to Qualify for a Free College Visit 

Let’s take a look at how to help your child qualify for a free college visit.

Step 1: Help your child identify colleges to visit.

The first step might seem like the trickiest part — targeting colleges to visit! However, that’s a good way to narrow down all the free college visit options. Ask your child where they think they might want to visit — large state universities, small private colleges or mid-sized universities. 

If your child doesn’t know for sure, it’s worth considering visiting local colleges and universities to get a feel for the opportunities closer. Otherwise, explore strong options that have your child’s major. 

Once you have two or three options narrowed down, you can move onto the next step.

Step 2: Contact the admissions office. 

At each of those schools, contact the admissions office. The admission counselor assigned to your child’s part of the country can let you know about your options for free college tours. The counselor may outline a number of options or may require proof of your financial situation if that’s the requirement to qualify for free tours. 

Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) gives you and your child the fastest way to prove your financial situation. The admissions office will know pretty quickly whether you have a qualifying income level that allows your child to attend a free college visit. In the same way, if you report your child’s status as a minority, they will likely check your child’s qualifications or take a look at the application.

Step 3: Keep track of processes.

Every school has a different process, so keep track of the visit benefits for each school. It might get confusing if you have six schools on the list! Consider whittling down the list with your child as you go on visits. You may not have to use every voucher because your child might find a dream school halfway through the search process.

Step 4: Consider budgeting.

If you can, consider putting together a budget for college visits. Like it or not, it may cost something to make college visits happen, particularly if your child doesn’t meet every single qualification that the school requires for free visits. Note that parents aren’t always covered during free college visits, so that might be the biggest downside. You may have to pay for yourself to go.

Step 5: Make visits happen.

Next, make college visits happen. Again, you may have to pay for yourself to attend. If you can’t financially afford it, you may not enjoy the fact that you have to sit out of college visits. Sending your child on college visits on their own may not make you feel good about the search process, but if it gives your child a chance to visit colleges, then it might be a good thing. If you’re in a tough spot financially, it may end up being the only way to go.

What if We Don’t Qualify for a Free Visit?

Some colleges won’t offer free visits. If a school offers a somewhat reduced cost for its college visits, they still might not end up as affordable as you want. Consider adjusting your child’s college list to schools that are more willing to adjust the cost of tours. 

You may also want to consider making another request to the admissions office to find out what else they may be able to do for your child. In many cases, admissions offices want to do everything they can to get qualified applicants on campus. They may be willing to make a special exception for your child and cover visit costs. 

Should You Do Virtual Tours? 

Virtual tours are online college tours that you can take while you sit at home in your living room. You and your student may want to consider sitting in on online tours of colleges at the beginning of the college search process. 

However, don’t make them your only visit. A college puts its best foot forward with virtual tours. This means that they show only the shiniest options on campus — perfect buildings, beautiful residence halls and more. They put the perkiest students on the tour video and everything looks fresh and amazing. A virtual tour almost always shows an altered reality of campus, so make sure your child gets their feet on campus.

Learn More About Free Tours

Don’t stop looking for options for free tours, even if the option isn’t immediately apparent on a college or university’s admission website. In fact, many won’t publish information about free college tours. Call and ask to learn more and to answer the question, “Do college tours cost money at this particular school?” — it’s your best bet.

FAQs 

Let’s take a look at a few frequently asked questions about free college tours.

Are college tours expensive?

In general, college tours are not expensive. They typically don’t cost you or your child money. Colleges and universities generally offer free tours, free lunch on campus and more. However, it’s the other expenses — hotel, airfare, gas and more — that can add up. 

Are college tours worth it?

Yes, college tours are worth it. There’s nothing more important to choosing the right college than getting you and your child’s feet on campus and experiencing it for yourself. You’ll talk to the students, faculty members and other individuals who will make your child’s college experiences invaluable.

What should I expect at a college tour?

One of the most common questions prior to starting the college search process looks like this: How to tour colleges? College visits may involve a wide variety of opportunities that align with your students’ interests. For example, if your child wants to play soccer in college, your child may talk to the soccer coach. The college tour makes up a portion of the college visit. In a college tour, a tour guide takes students through academic buildings, residence halls, common areas and more. The campus tour gives students a general overview of what to expect when they are a student on campus and also gives them an opportunity to ask questions while on the college tour.

Do college tours increase chances of getting in?

No. Your child taking a college tour does not determine whether or not they will get into a college. Your child’s qualifications for admission do more to determine whether your child will get into a particular college or university. However, it’s always good to meet the individuals on campus and have your child show their personality, interests and more. That may tip the scales in favor of admission if your child is “on the bubble.”

What is Deferred in College Admission?

What is Deferred in College Admission?

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.

FAQs 

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.

What is Considered a Private Student Loan?

What is Considered a Private Student Loan?

Private student loans are a type of loan that undergraduate and graduate students can use to pay for college. Unlike federal student loans, which come from the federal government (the Department of Education, to be specific), private student loans come from private lenders.

It may seem like a daunting task to understand the concept of private vs federal student loans, especially for 18-year-old high school students. In this piece, we’ll do just that. We’ll walk through the definition of a private student loan, help you get a sense of who can get a private student loan, how much you can borrow, interest rates on private student loans and more. 

Let’s get started so you and your student have a better answer to “What is considered a private student loan?”

Private Student Loan Definition

What’s a private student loan? Private student loans come from a private lender such as a bank, credit union or online lender — not the federal government. The private lender sets its own terms and conditions for the private student loan. The application process also looks different for private student loans compared to federal student loans. You don’t file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to get a private loan — you fill out an application on the lender’s page.

So, what exactly are the differences between private loans and federal student loans? It’s a great question. The federal government sets forth the terms and conditions of federal student loans and often come with more federal protections, such as in federal income-driven repayment plans. You do not get federal protections with private student loans, though private student loan lenders may consider your situation if you’re having trouble making payments. 

In another example of additional perks, in the case of Direct Subsidized loans, the government pays the interest while you’re in college, a feature that private lenders don’t offer.

What are private loans and federal loan similarities and differences? Let’s take a quick look at federal and private loans definition and compare private vs federal student loans side by side below.

FeatureFederal Student LoansPrivate Student Loans
RepaymentNot due until after you graduateMay require payments when you are in school, but most allow you to wait until you are no longer in school.
Interest ratesFixed interest rate (stays the same); may be lower than private loansVariable (changing) or fixed; which may be higher or lower than federal student loans
Required credit checkNoYes, in most cases
Postponement optionsMay be able to temporarily postpone or lower your payments using federal protectionsMay be able to arrange postponement or lowered payments through your lender
Repayment plansRepayment plans available, including income-driven repayment plans and standard 10-year repayment plansMay offer more flexible repayment plans; check with your lender
Prepayment penaltiesNo prepayment penaltyThere may be a prepayment penalty; check with your lender
Loan forgivenessLoan forgiveness programs available through the federal student loan programMany private lenders do not offer loan forgiveness

Who Can Get a Private Student Loan?

Students and parents can both qualify for private student loans. For example, if you want to help your child pay for college, you can co-sign a private student loan. Typically, undergraduate students will need a cosigner to get a private loan. As a cosigner, private lenders may require you to get your credit score checked to prove your creditworthiness and verify that you have regular income coming in.

If your student is a graduate student, a private lender may grant them a private student loan in their own name. As a graduate student, a private lender may be looking at your student’s credentials, such as income and credit score.

Parents may even be able to get a lower interest rate on private student loans compared to the Parent PLUS loan, a type of federal student loan that parents can borrow to help pay for a child’s education. They come with origination fees that add to the total loan amount, which could potentially cost more over time. 

How Much Can You Borrow in Private Student Loans? 

Your student can’t borrow as much as they want with federal student loans. However, private lenders allow your child to borrow up to the full cost of attendance (tuition, room, board and fees) as well as other expenses such as books, computers, transportation and living expenses such as rent for an apartment. They do need to meet all lender borrowing requirements, however.

In comparison, undergraduate students may only take out $57,500 in federal student loans (and students can use no more than $23,000 in subsidized loans). Graduate and professional students can only take out a max aggregate amount of $138,500 for graduate or professional studies (with no more than $65,500 of this amount in subsidized loans), which includes all funds from undergraduate studies as well. 

If the full cost of an undergraduate institution costs $63,000 per year, you can see how federal student loans might have their limitations and require you to take out private student loans to fill in the gaps.

What Are Interest Rates on Private Loans?

What exactly does “interest rate” mean? The interest rate is the amount the lender charges a borrower for the privilege of borrowing from them. The lender charges an interest rate as a percentage of the amount borrowed.

Unfortunately, there’s no “one rate” that categorizes private loans — they range considerably, from just over 3% to 12% and more. It’s important to consider the interest rates on private loans among various lenders. 

Private loans may be higher or lower federal loan interest rates, depending on credentials. You can get a private student loan interest rate lower than federal interest rates. 

Unlike federal student loan interest rates, which stay the same (called a fixed rate), private lenders often offer both fixed and variable interest rates. A variable interest rate means that the interest rate changes throughout the life of the loan. 

How to Consider Private Student Loans

We’re going beyond the answer to “what are private student loans?” in this section! How do you consider all of the above factors and choose the right route? Let’s chat about it.

Step 1: Understand financial aid awards.

Instead of comparing and contrasting loan interest rates, one of the most important things you should do is understand how a financial aid award works. Financial aid awards all look different from school to school, and it’s a good idea to understand what must be repaid versus what doesn’t. In other words: 

Does not need to be repaid:

  • Scholarships 
  • Grants

Must be repaid with interest: 

  • Federal loans
  • Private loans

Must be earned:

  • Work-study

Understand the differences between all the components of each line of every financial aid award so you can help your child make a great decision about private versus federal student loans they will take on.

Look into every aspect of every type of loan on the financial aid award. For example, let’s say your child receives $2,000 in Direct Unsubsidized loans and $3,500 in Direct Subsidized loans. What are the loan fees? What is the interest rate? (Currently, loan fees are 1.057% for these loans and interest rates are 4.99% for undergraduates.)

Step 2: Shop around.

In most cases, all the shopping you’ll have to do stops right at your child’s school. They will likely offer a reputable lender list and help you decide on a recommended selection. 

Look into a variety of private lenders to compare all the features — interest rate, repayment structure, fees, borrower protections, whether there is a credit check, prepayment penalty — everything! Check with your local bank, look at online lenders, etc. Ask all the questions you can think of and more.

Note that the higher your credit score and income, the more likely you’ll get a lower interest rate. You may be able to snag a lower interest rate than those offered by the federal government through federal student loans.

Look into at least three different lending institutions so you have a healthy comparison.

Step 3: Know the process to get a private student loan.

How do private student loans work? You and your child will apply on the lender’s website at no cost to you, fill out information such as address, Social Security number, enrollment information, requested loan amount, financial information (you will, too, if you’re a cosigner), employment history and choose interest rate type and repayment preferences. 

The lender will review you/your child’s credit, approve the application and choose the interest rate and repayment option. You and/or your child will accept the loan terms and sign. Once completed, your lender will check into your eligibility, including eligibility for enrollment and the full cost of the school.

Step 4: Consider refinancing for later.

Remember that if you and your student can’t get a great interest rate on a private loan now, you can always refinance down the road and get a lower rate. Refinancing means replacing one or all of your loans with a new loan with a private lender. It’s worth reminding your student again (when the time comes) that she will lose the federal protections and federal repayment options of federal student loans when she refinances. 

You cannot refinance a federal loan into a federal loan. You can only refinance from a federal student loan into a private student loan. Note that your child will also have to offer proof of regular income and a higher credit score in order to refinance.

How Long Does it Take to Pay Off a Private Student Loan?

Unlike federal student loans, private student lenders do not offer a standard repayment schedule. However, many private lenders offer the same repayment schedule — 120 months (10 years) to repay. Some private lenders will allow you to extend your payments, potentially up to 25 years.

Understand Private Loans Ahead of Time

It’s a good idea to compare and contrast all the benefits of private loans for your child’s situation and all the various ways you can get college paid for. Get a feel for how private loans can offer your child the best benefits. Will they fill in the gaps that scholarships, grants and loans can’t cover? Will you try to fill in some gaps as well?

Paying for college can seem like a giant puzzle, but it’s important to figure out how each piece fits into the picture.

FAQs

Let’s take a look at a couple of frequently asked questions that digs deeper into answering the question, “What is a private loan?”

How do you know if loans are private?

You’ll know if loans are private if they don’t come from the federal government. Once you and your child file the FAFSA, they will show up on the financial aid award at every school your child applies to in the form of a “Direct Loan.” Private loans will not show up on financial aid awards, which means that you and your child can work with the school’s financial aid office to choose the right private loan.

Is FAFSA a private student loan?

No, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a free application that you fill out that enables your child to qualify for federal financial aid, including grants, loans and work-study.

Do You Have to Decline Admission to Colleges? 

Do You Have to Decline Admission to Colleges? 

Your child may be wondering, “Do you have to decline admission to colleges?” 

It may not be something that they feel comfortable doing, but yes, it is customary (and thoughtful!) to let a college know that they do not plan to attend that particular school. Your child should communicate with every college and university they don’t plan to attend. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what it means to decline college admissions, why you should do so and how to decline a college acceptance. We’ll even include a couple of examples of how to communicate so your child doesn’t have to think twice about how to do it.  

What Does it Mean to Decline College Admissions? 

Figuring out how to decide what college to go to is not easy. It’s a huge deal. That’s why it’s easy to focus on which college you say “yes” to rather than the other colleges on the “thanks, but no thanks” list.

When you decline college admissions, it means that your child tells colleges and universities that they plan not to attend their institution. It can involve an email to an admissions counselor or a phone call to the admissions office. In some way, your child should communicate to the college or university that they plan to go elsewhere. 

When you decline admission, colleges may ask you for some information for their own research purposes, including the college you plan to attend and why you plan to attend that other institution.   

Do You Need to Decline College Admissions?

Do you need to decline college admissions? Yes, your child should make sure colleges understand that they will not attend their institution. It helps both the colleges and your child (and you!) get reoriented on the next step in the process. 

It’s important to note that it’s not an absolute requirement to let colleges know that your child won’t attend for the semester for which they are applying. However, declining admissions officially reflects well on your character. It gives your child an opportunity to thank the college despite the fact that they will not attend.

For example, the college can focus on individuals who do want to attend their institution and you and your child can focus on your next step. Think of declining college admission as clearing space in your calendar, cleaning out a stuffed closet or a cluttered desk. 

Ultimately, it’s really rude to not decline admission and allow the college to keep contacting your student when your child knows they aren’t planning to attend. It can save lots of time and energy on everyone’s part — it can help everyone save on emails, mailings, phone calls, personalized messages, trips, etc.

Read more: Wondering how long admissions officers read applications? Find out.

Reasons to Decline Admissions to Colleges 

Let’s expand on the previous paragraph a bit and look at several reasons to decline admissions to colleges, including from the college’s perspective as well as yours.

Reason 1: It helps the college understand their incoming class.

Colleges want to get a sense of how their classes are shaping up. The earlier your child can provide that information, the better. If your daughter knows for sure that she won’t attend University X in November, encourage your child to communicate with the college. 

They need to shape the incoming class as much as they possibly can, and if you decline admissions, you might even open up a spot in the class for the next person. Why not pay it forward by making the next person in line extremely happy?

Reason 2: Colleges stop sending unwanted information. 

This may be one of the best reasons to tell colleges that your child doesn’t want to attend! You stop getting mail, emails and more. Your child can even communicate the information prior to beginning the application process with a school. 

For example, let’s say College A begins sending information, unprompted, to your child. If your child has no interest in College A, she can send a quick message letting the college know that there’s no chance of her attending that school.

Reason 3: Colleges stop personally contacting your child.

Some colleges have robust texting and phone call communication processes, particularly small colleges and universities that must distinguish themselves among large amounts of competition. 

Coaches and other individuals who have been recruiting your child for a specific program will also stop contacting them. Kindly communicating a child’s disinterest in the program can help coaches and other recruiters focus on the new class of incoming students.

Reason 4: You can move forward. 

Both you and your child can move forward with the admission process. That may mean focusing on visiting other colleges, applying at other schools, writing supplemental essays and applying to scholarships at the schools in which your child is interested.

How to Decline College Acceptance

Do you know how to reject a college acceptance, exactly? It’s totally understandable if you don’t have a roadmap for how to help your child let a college know that they don’t want to attend.

So, how exactly should your child do so? First of all, I encourage your child to reach out — not you, as the parent. It’s a good lesson in growing up and taking on more responsibility in making life decisions.

Let’s take a look at the next steps.

Step 1: Check the acceptance letter for exact steps.

Many schools include the exact steps your child needs to take to decline acceptance. Dig out the acceptance email or letter to find out whether those steps are listed. This process may end up as filling out a super easy form to decline the offer of admission. If that’s the case, great! 

However, this approach is a very transactional experience and fully ignores any relationships built throughout the process. Individuals who work with your child throughout the process may feel slighted if all they get is a form in the mail that states that your child will not attend the school.

Step 2: Locate the contact information for the admissions office.

Every college or university admissions office has a section on their website that outlines the contact information for your child’s particular area. After all, you want to make sure your child’s email or letter gets to the right person! 

For example, the University of Tennessee has a section of its website dedicated to finding your child’s admissions counselor based on your area of the country. Similarly, Purdue has a similar portion of its website dedicated to helping your high schooler find their admissions counselor.

If your child worked one-on-one with someone in an admissions department at a particular college, locate that person’s contact information. Ultimately, having your child contact the admissions department is the best place to start.

Step 3: Talk to your child about politeness and courtesy. 

Learning how to decline a college acceptance may not feel intuitive to your child at all. However, it’s important to talk about clarity, conciseness and being kind. Your child should offer thanks for the offer, but clearly note that you plan to decline the college’s offer. 

Warn your child to steer clear of rudeness, snideness or condescension in their communication, even if your child had a negative experience with the college that changed their mind about the institution. Declining a college acceptance politely keeps the door wide open for later — remind your child that they may not like the college they end up choosing and may want to transfer later on.

Step 4: Have your child send an email or letter.

Your child has a few different avenues to pursue an admissions decline. Encourage your high schooler to send a formal letter or email, and if they have a personal connection with someone at the college, they may want to make a phone call instead for a personal touch. 

If your child has been working with a particular coach or another individual at a college over the course of a few months, the coach likely deserves the courtesy of personalized communication with your child.

Step 5: Decline admission by May 1. 

May 1 is National Decision Day, which is the cutoff date for making a college decision. Does this mean you have to wait till May 1 to notify a school you won’t attend?

Absolutely not. The sooner you know, the better. However, don’t rush the decision. You want to make absolutely sure that you weigh all the pros and cons. You will have to submit an enrollment deposit once you make a final decision about which college to attend. 

Example of How to Decline College Acceptance

Let’s take a quick look at an example of how to reject a college acceptance through an email or snail mail. 

Your child’s name

Your child’s address

City, State ZIP 

November 18, 2022

College name

College address

City, State ZIP 

To whom it may concern (or name of admissions professional):

Thank you so much for the offer of admission at University Y. However, I plan to accept an offer from a different institution. 

Thank you for the ongoing communication, personal notes and phone calls that assisted me in making my final decision. 

All the best,

Your child’s name

Your child can eliminate the address information to turn it into an email. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be long — it can be short and sweet and to the point.

Will Colleges Continue to Get in Touch?

Colleges and universities should stop contacting your child after an email or letter gets sent once you know they are no longer interested.

Declining College Offers is Polite

If your child asks, “Do I have to decline college offers?” say yes. Have your child send a letter to the college or admissions department thanking them for their offer and declining. Encourage your senior to send a personalized letter if they have a personal connection with someone on campus.

How Long Do Admissions Officers Read Applications?

How Long Do Admissions Officers Read Applications?

How long do admissions officers read applications? More specifically, how much time do admissions officers spend on each application? You may wonder who sees your child’s application, how long they look at it and how they make a final decision. 

The short answer is that it depends on the school, and a lot depends on the selectivity of the institution. All schools take a look at the application, but the rigor of the institution can dictate the amount of time spent reviewing it. For example, if your child applies to a highly selective institution, the application may go through at least two readers and a final committee. All told, between the first round of readers and the final committee, the application might get 15 minutes of attention from each round.

Admissions readers have a lot of applications to read and a finite amount of time to do it in, which is why your child’s application has to be a slam dunk. 

In addition to answering the question, “how much time do admission readers spend on each application?”, we’ll also walk through where the application “goes” after it enters the college admissions process “tunnel.” 

What is Admissions Reading?

First of all, what exactly is admissions reading? During the admissions process, students apply for admissions at their top choice schools.

They may apply using the Common Application, the Coalition for College application, the Universal College Application, the college’s own application or another type of application process. 

Once the application has been submitted, people take the time to review applications. Colleges often hire seasonal readers to work up to full time during what admissions professionals call “the reading season.” These admissions readers review prospective student test scores, transcripts, essays and other relevant admissions criteria to help make decisions about admissions candidates. Readers use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage the process. Students get admitted based on that particular college or university’s enrollment goals.

The College Admissions Reading Process, Step by Step 

Let’s take a look at the college admissions reading process, step by step, so you know what to expect. We’ll answer the question, “How do admissions officers read applications?” We’ll also touch on the amount of time admission readers take a look at the application.

Step 1: The college screens and sorts applications.

When the college receives a senior’s application, each college likely has a specific process for handling them. Many colleges import the information on the application and input it directly into the college’s CRM system. 

(Fun fact: When I first started in admissions, our data team printed out the applications and checked them against the computer system — yes, we were still using physical files! Once our data team checked them over and ensured that the CRM matched the application, the file was ready to go onto the next step.)

The appropriate admissions officer will then receive the application. Admissions counselors have a region that they handle. For example, one admissions counselor will handle applications from the state of Colorado. If your student lives in Colorado, that admission counselor will handle your high schooler’s application. 

Step 2: Admissions readers read applications.

Admissions readers then take on the process from there, usually in collaboration with the regional admissions counselor. How many admissions officers are there? It depends on the school, but admissions readers often work in pairs.

On the first pass, a new application may get a 10- to 15-minute review from that part-time hired application reader or another individual at the college or university. This leads to an understanding of the competitiveness of a candidate. Based on this first pass, they will give a recommendation about each candidate, entering in detailed information into the college’s CRM for each applicant. Admission readers may read 50 applications per day, moving methodically through a laid-out process.

Do admissions officers read all essays? The truth of the matter is that some schools have the application go directly to the final committee, whereas other (selective) colleges might read an applicant’s application again before it goes through the final phase. 

Is this process subjective? Of course. Admission readers, while they have been trained in the requirements for admission to that particular institution, they obviously have biases and preferences when reviewing candidates for admission. A second or third round can offer another analysis and offer a more diversified view of the applicant. However, some universities, which have more qualitative processes, may push the applicant through to the “acceptance” stage without going through another round of reviews.

Step 3: A committee takes a look at applications.

Depending on the school, the college or university may not send applications to the “committee.” For colleges and universities that do send applicants to a committee, an official committee group may include a senior admissions official or two, an academic representative and other committee readers designated by the college or university. They will take a look at a rubric or notes in the CRM created by the reading process prior to the committee review. 

This process will take about 15 minutes or so and a final decision will come out of the final committee meeting.

Step 4: The final decision occurs.

Once the process concludes, naturally, your student will get a final decision. 

How long does it take to get a final decision? It depends on the type of admission at a particular college or university. Check out the eight different application types as well as a basic summary below:

  • Regular admission: Regular admission deadlines typically occur in early January and admission offers are sent in late March or early April. Students will have to decide by May 1, the National Candidate Reply Day. 
  • Rolling admission: Students get an admission decision quickly, typically within two weeks, instead of sending out acceptances all on one date. Like regular admission, your student will need to decide whether to attend a “rolling admission” school by May 1.  
  • Open admission: Colleges accept high school graduates in the incoming class until all spaces fill up. Community colleges typically use this type of admission and you get a decision quickly.
  • Early action: Early action, which is nonbinding, means your student has the option to submit an application before the regular deadline and you get a decision earlier than usual, typically in January or February.
  • Early decision: Early decision is binding, which means you must attend that college. You typically apply early (usually in November) and usually get a decision by December.
  • Single-choice early action or restrictive early action: This nonbinding option requires you to not apply to other schools during the early action period. You’ll apply early and hear back in December. 
How to Get a Admission Reader’s Attention 

So, how long do colleges look at applications? Let’s take a look at it this way: How can you get an admission reader’s attention quickly? Consider that they may only spend 30 minutes total with your application from start to finish. 

Get their attention by personalizing your application. Tell your own unique story in an engaging way. Many colleges request you to write supplemental essays. You can add intricate details about yourself through these supplementals. Here are a few examples: 

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at University X specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.

To tell us more about yourself, please complete the following sentences using only the space provided: 

  • If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… 
  • The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was… 
  • In addition to my major, my academic interests include… 
  • My favorite thing about last Wednesday was… 
  • When I think of diversity, I think of… 

Something you might not know about me is… Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying to University X. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

Prior to applying, it’s important to know the answer to “how long do colleges spend on each application?” It’s also important to figure out how to communicate your unique qualifications. Take every opportunity to convey exceptional talents, alumni legacies, how you will fit into the academic department that you are applying to and more. 

If you’re curious about the admissions process at a particular college or university, you can ask. They may offer a detailed explanation or may also just give you a general explanation of how the admission process works.

FAQs

Do admissions officers read applications?

Yes, admissions officers do read applications. The admission office of a particular college or university may also hire remote or in-office seasonal readers to read applications during the admissions “reading season.”

That’s why it’s important for your student to put their best foot forward with the application — they should do the best they can to personalize the application, particularly with any supplemental essays required by the institution. This gives them an opportunity to showcase their unique personality and qualifications.

How many essays do admissions officers read a day?

Every admissions office has a goal for the number of essays that must be read during any given week. However, college admissions officers and admission readers may read approximately 50 applications per day, spending approximately 15 minutes per application.

Do admissions officers actually read essays?

Yes, admissions officers do actually read essays, but they might have already screened candidates first in a preliminary round. Every admissions office has a different process and it’s impossible to sum up the exact step-by-step process for each admission office in one blog post.

What Does Room and Board Include in College and What Will it Cost? 

What Does Room and Board Include in College and What Will it Cost? 

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?

“Room” Definition 

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.

“Board” Definition

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
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Automating College Savings: The Secret Key to Education Financial Planning

Automating College Savings: The Secret Key to Education Financial Planning

I can count on two hands and all of my toes (and beyond) the number of people who sat in my office and said, “I wish I’d saved more for college.”

I spent 12 years in college admission, and during this time, I heard hundreds of situations — families who had regularly saved money for college, people who hadn’t saved a penny, families who had sporadically saved over the years. 

I heard, “We’re set!” to, “We were worried about the bills. We always said we’d eventually put money away for college but never did. Stuff just kept coming up — a new kitchen, a few vacations to Disney, and now, the kids are ready to go off to college. We haven’t saved a dime.” 

(Don’t feel guilty if the second example sounds like you!)

Here’s the basic secret I discovered among the people who were successful at saving for college and education planning: They’d saved a little bit and invested it every month. That cumulative effect meant that they felt comfortable paying for college. They didn’t have a master’s degree in college financial planning. They automated everything.

What is Automated Investing for Education Planning?

Automated investing is just that — you set up your child’s college savings account so money goes directly into it each month. In other words, you put your money and your savings on autopilot. It’s one of the easiest ways to save for college.

You’ve heard of this method — it’s often called the “pay yourself first” method of investing. It’s extremely effective because you learn to expect the payment (which you can set for a particular day of the month). It becomes a normal part of your monthly expenses, 12 times a year.

How to Get Started Automating College Savings

During my years in admission, I noticed that one of the hardest things for parents to do was to just get started investing for college. 

Families would relay to me, “I just wasn’t sure what to do. We didn’t start at all because we didn’t know where to put our money.”

Totally understandable! Here are three simple steps to get going.

Step 1: Choose an investment type. 

You can find a dizzying array of college savings plans, investment types and companies that tout that they have “better savings options” and “fewer fees” than the competition. It’s great to do your own research, but when push comes to shove, it’s best to just make a decision so you’re actually doing it. You can always move your money later!

Let’s take a look at a few popular college savings plan options. 

529 Plans

529 plans are college savings plans sponsored by a state or state agency. You can use these accounts, which grow tax-free, to pay for tuition, books and other qualified expenses. Your state often offers tax benefits for a large number of account types. When you take the money out of your 529 plan to pay for college, you won’t pay taxes as long as you use the money for qualified expenses, like tuition, room, board and school-related fees. (If you buy a car with the money, you’ll face a tax bite.) 

Custodial Accounts

Through a savings account at a financial institution or brokerage firm, you can invest money in a custodial account, a type of account set up for adults to invest for minors. Custodial accounts have longer, fancier names: the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). The state in which you live determines whether you invest in a UGMA or UTMA. The state also determines the age in which your child can take out the money — usually 18, 21 or 25. Custodial accounts offer tax advantages and have no income or contribution limits or withdrawal penalties.

The drawback to a custodial account is that your child can take the money out and spend it however he or she wishes. That means your child can use the money to buy a car or take an expensive trip.   

Coverdell ESAs

A Coverdell ESA is a tax-deferred trust that you can open at a brokerage or other financial institution. It helps families by offering tax-free earnings growth and tax-free withdrawals on qualified educational expenses. 

However, you do face some caps: You can only make annual contributions up to $2,000 for joint filers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) up to $190,000. The options are reduced for a MAGI between $190,000 and $220,000. You cannot contribute to a Coverdell ESA if your income rises above $220,000.

Stocks or Mutual Funds 

You may bypass “specified” college savings accounts and invest directly in stocks or mutual funds. Stocks represent an ownership share of a company. One stock represents one share of a company. 

Mutual funds, on the other hand, refer to many investors who pool their money together to invest in bundles of securities. Mutual funds offer a more diversified investment than stocks, which offer more risk individually. Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, mutual funds allow you to spread the risk around.

The downside to investing in stocks or mutual funds is that they don’t offer tax incentives strictly for education.

Roth IRAs 

You may recognize a Roth IRA as a retirement vehicle — just as its name indicates. (IRA stands for “individual retirement account.”) However, you can withdraw from a Roth IRA in order to pay for qualified educational expenses tax-free. 

The downsides: If you’ve had the Roth IRA for less than five years and you withdraw not just the principal amount contributed but also the earnings to pay for college, you’ll owe taxes on those earnings. In addition, pulling money from your retirement account means that you could inadvertently penalize yourself by neglecting your own retirement savings.

In order to contribute to a Roth IRA, your MAGI must be less than $129,000 if you’re single. If you’re married and filing jointly, you cannot go over $204,000. You can contribute a maximum of $6,000 to a Roth IRA if you’re younger than age 50. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000 per year in “catch-up” contributions. 

I get it: Choosing an investment type is easier said than done. However, remember that taking some action is better than doing nothing at all. 

Step 2: Set up automatic contributions.

Similar to direct deposit from your paycheck to your bank, you want to make sure money automatically goes from your bank to your investment account. 

You can swiftly set up automatic withdrawals through your brokerage account, your state’s 529 plan site or other type of financial account. Choose a dollar amount to go into your account every month. Next, set up the automated deposits based on your paydays or a monthly contribution schedule. For example, you may choose to contribute $500 every month to your child’s 529 plan on the 15th of every month — or another day you get paid. 

Some employers offer payroll direct deposit into a 529 plan account. Find out if your state’s 529 plan allows this.

Step 3: Monitor your success.

One of the best parts of automating your college savings involves watching it grow. You may want to change your action plan based on a college savings calculator, such as the college savings calculator from Fidelity. A college savings calculator can help you determine whether you’re on the right path. 

Why not start out with a college savings calculator in the first place? Well, to be honest, it’s best to get started with a monthly amount you can afford rather than giving you the heebie-jeebies about how much college might cost in 18 years or less.

It’s best to save as much as you can, as often as you can. Your child may have to get student loans, and that’s okay. Right now, feel content that you’re doing as much as you possibly can. 

Automate Now to Benefit Later

One more not-so-secret secret: Many plans will let you contribute as little as $25 per month. If you can afford $25 worth of candles at Target (I’m totally guilty!) you might be able to kick $25 toward your child’s college education. 

In my experience, it’s about building up the confidence to invest and realizing that yes, you can do it. It just takes a little investigation on your part. Once you get going, setting up automatic investments and celebrating your wins becomes second nature. 

If you’re thinking, “No way can I decide alone! I need help with this stuff,” you’re not alone. 

Consider getting the advice of a local financial advisor. A fiduciary financial advisor (one who puts your best interests at heart) can also help you make your savings automatic. Trust me, you’ll feel great about taking this next step.

37 Best Side Hustle Ideas for Moms of College-Bound Kids in 2022

37 Best Side Hustle Ideas for Moms of College-Bound Kids in 2022

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 taken to reduce student debt burdens and lower the cost of college. For the time being though, lots of families need to find creative solutions — including parents adopting side hustles to pay tuition.

Benefits of Side Hustling to Help You Save for College

Chances are, if you’re familiar with the term “side hustle,” it’s primarily with regard to young adults working full time for the first time. These days, we often expect young people to be working “day jobs” and “side hustles” simultaneously as they look to save up money and establish financial independence. But this isn’t the only use for a side hustle. It can also be a worthwhile venture for a mom — and perhaps a single mom in particular — looking to manage college tuition costs.

Usually, conversations about managing those costs begin with talk of savings, and this is perfectly logical. If you’re a mom hoping to pay for some or all of your child’s (or children’s) tuition costs, you should be looking for ways to save. If you start early, you can take advantage of a variety of methods that help to build on savings over time, and ultimately establish very useful funds that can be applied to tuition checks when the time comes. At the same time though, savings options do fundamentally draw money from your existing income. They are effectively costs that affect your bottom line, perhaps for years at a time.

This speaks to the key benefit of adding a side hustle to your tuition plans. While savings drain your core income, a side hustle provides you with extra income — allowing you to make additional money that you can funnel directly toward payments (or perhaps directly into a savings account, deepening on timing and arrangements). Of course, a side hustle still requires time and effort. But it’s fair to think of it as a way to make extra money for tuition, rather than to further drain the core income you depend on as a working mother.

The other key benefit, as we just alluded to, is that by generating extra income, you may be able to add generously to a savings account or similar, stable investment that can appreciate over time. If, for instance, you are managing a 529 plan for college costs, the money within that plan grows by a small percentage each year. Funneling side hustle earnings into the plan gives you more money that can appreciate over time, rather than just more raw funds.

Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of side hustles for moms looking to manage college tuition costs, let’s look at some of the best specific jobs worth considering.

Click here to subscribe

Side Hustle 1: Crafting

With so many ways to sell goods online today, a lot of moms will develop profitable side hustles simply making and selling their own goods. Whether that means homemade tee shirts, jewelry, household decorations, or Christmas ornaments, if the products are well made they can be sold online.

Side Hustle 2: Blogging

It takes strategy and diligence to make a profitable blog. But if you know what to write, you speak to a particular audience, and you learn some SEO basics, you can generate enough attention to make some money simply writing in your free time.

Side Hustle 3: Proofreading

Students and professionals alike are always in need of proofreading services, and today you can easily link up with clients for this kind of work through freelancing sites online.

Side Hustle 4: Transcribing

Like proofreading, transcription services are always in demand on freelance platforms (such as Upwork and others like it). It tends to be easy work to perform in free time, and while pay isn’t lucrative, it does add up.

Side Hustle 5: Taking Paid Surveys

There are all sorts of opportunities to answer paid surveys, and some of them take only minutes at a time. This is a job a working mother can do in a carpool line, at the park while younger kids play, etc.

Side Hustle 6: Selling Art

This is a terrific side hustle for working moms who happen to have a talent for art, naturally. But here again, the internet and social media have made it much easier to sell valuable work. In time, a mother with talent in this space can even develop what is essentially a personal business, generating more and more meaningful income as attention and appreciation for the work spread.

Side Hustle 7: Selling Photos

Everything we just noted regarding art applies to photography, for those who have more skill in this area. Here too though we’ll also note that stock photo sales can make for a handy side hustle, because profits can be generated for work already done. That is, even if you’re only making $1 per download on a photo, those dollars may keep coming in for months or years.

Side Hustle 8: Selling Baked Goods

For those moms who have a talent for baking (or making any sort of treat, really), there is also some potential to generate meaningful side income. Whether through online or local sales, there’s always a market for tasty goods!

Side Hustle 9: Testing Products

Numerous services exist that help to pair willing participants with product-testing opportunities, both digitally and in person. Simply by trying out a product in your own time and offering your thoughts on it, you can earn some decent payments.

Side Hustle 10: Secret Shopping

Once in-person shopping returns to a normal activity level (after the pause of 2020), secret shopping will be an option that some will actually have fun with. This is basically a practice by which a company will pay people to browse through its stores and report on the quality of the service.

Side Hustle 11: Altering Clothing

This is another option in the craft and artistry department. But for moms who are skilled with alterations, there is always the option of setting up a part-time local business.

Side Hustle 12: Tutoring

Tutoring is an excellent part-time option that can sometimes involve fairly appealing rates. Sometimes online but particularly in person, a skilled tutor can reasonably ask for $50 an hour or more.

Side Hustle 13: Assisting With Test Prep

This is very similar to tutoring. But for those moms who want more guaranteed business, test prep is a sort of tutoring niche that makes for a great side hustle. There will always be kids seeking help with standardized testing, and helping them with the process is both rewarding and profitable.

Side Hustle 14: Teaching Private Lessons

It’s a broad category, but teaching a skill — be it in music, sports, art, etc. — is also an excellent side hustle. Here, as with tutoring, $50 or more per hour is a reasonable ask, meaning the extra funds can really add up.

Side Hustle 15: Teaching Online Courses

In a similar vein to tutoring and teaching private lessons, moms with expertise in certain subjects also have the option of setting up full online courses. This can take a fair amount of work, as it involves conveying expertise and doing the marketing work that will attract paying students or subscribers. But the real appeal is that a well-made online course can be used repeatedly to generate more profits from new students.

Side Hustle 16: Personal Training

For moms with experience in fitness, personal training is also an excellent option. Particularly if there’s an opportunity to take on a few client at one time, side income from an activity like this can quickly add up.

Click here to subscribe

Side Hustle 17: Coaching or Refereeing

Moms who enjoy sports can also have a little bit of fun with a local side hustle participating in youth sports. At parks and community centers and the like, there is often a need for children’s team coaches or referees. These can sound more like demanding jobs, but the truth is they usually involve just a few hours’ work each week.

Side Hustle 18: Web Design

Web design is always in demand, and a mom with particular skill (and a track record or examples to prove it) can command very competitive rates in this department. Whether through a personal website advertising services or through freelance platforms, regular, high-paying side work can be generated.

Side Hustle 19: Accounting

Accounting can be a little trickier than some of these options in that you’ll typically need qualifications to get good, paying work. At the same time though, a working mother today has the option of pursuing an online accounting degree today, and acquiring those qualifications cheaply and affordably. This can lead to substantial income through remote, freelance accounting work for companies in need.

Side Hustle 20: Tax Advising

As with accounting, tax advice is something people tend to look to the experts for. However, if you can prove understanding and capability — and offer more competitive rates than professional CPAs — it is possible to generate good business. Plus, a mother who does good work advising others on taxes can quickly accumulate referrals and good reviews that in turn lead to more business.

Side Hustle 21: Social Media Management

Businesses today need to maintain social media activity to remain competitive, and a lot of them are looking for help doing it. Finding even one company that will pay to have its accounts maintained can make for a very profitable side hustle

Side Hustle 22: Babysitting

This idea more or less speak for itself. But for mothers who may have a few hours to spare in a given week, it’s still a great side hustle option.

Side Hustle 23: Pet Sitting

Even more manageable than babysitting is pet-sitting! Particularly for moms who may work at home, taking on a pet or two to help out a neighbor or friend can result in what is almost passive income. A few walks and feedings are easy enough in exchange for a nice chunk of change

Side Hustle 24: Driving An Uber (or Lyft)

Driving for ride-sharing services has become a very popular side hustle. Not all moms will have the time or flexibility for something like this, but those with older kids may be able to work in a bit of of driving in early evenings or on the weekends. The money isn’t lucrative, but it does add up.

Side Hustle 25: Driving for Delivery Services

It’s difficult to say whether or not delivery services will remain as popular once the pandemic is behind us (this article being written in early 2021). But for the time being, driving for grocery and product deliveries (through services like Postmates, DoorDash, etc.) is a nice, easy way to earn some extra cash.

Side Hustle 26: Cleaning Homes

For those moms who don’t mind the work (or even enjoy tidying things up), cleaning others’ homes is always an option too. It’s not at all unreasonable to charge $100 or more for a few hours of cleaning, such that even doing this a few times a month can add up to a nice bit of side income.

Side Hustle 27: Doing Yard Work or Gardening

For moms who love to be outside, or enjoy working on gardening and landscaping, this is one side hustle that can be the best of both worlds! Lots of people will pay handsomely to have their yard and gardens spruced up, particularly for those moms who will offer more competitive rates than larger landscaping services.

Side Hustle 28: Becoming a Virtual Assistant

This is a relatively new concept in the side hustle world, but one that can provide quite a lot of reasonably well-paid work. Ultimately, tasks for virtual assistants can range from managing appointments, to doing remote reception duty, to arranging travel, and more. But the general idea is to become an all-purpose virtual go-to for a given company’s need during defined hours.

Side Hustle 29: Work as a Doula

The work of a doula can seem like professional medical care at times, but the truth is you do not actually need certification or a degree to perform this role. It might be reassuring to clients of course, but it is possible for a mom seeking a side hustle to step right into doula work. It won’t be the most regular work, but it’s rewarding and profitable, and can of course be done alongside other side hustles.

Side Hustle 30: Renting Out Your Car

Just as Airbnb has enabled people to rent out their homes, there are now services that temporarily rent out cars as well. For any mom with the flexibility to manage this, it can be an excellent opportunity for passive side income.

Side Hustle 31: Brewing Coffee

This is an idea for which it’s important to be careful about weighing costs versus profits. But the opportunity to brew one’s own coffee can be quite a lot of fun, and can even result in something of a home business. Sourcing beans, working out a specific recipe or gimmick, and marketing fresh-brewed coffee locally is side hustle some moms will enjoy exploring.

Side Hustle 32: Life Coaching

Life coaching may be somewhat vague, but it’s also a fairly in-demand service. For those moms who feel they can inspire or motivate, or who have personal stories of overcoming obstacles in life, it’s certainly another option to explore.

Side Hustle 33: Writing Books

Writing a book takes a lot of work, and can certainly become a full-time job. However, thanks largely to self-publishing options and online sales avenues, a lot of people find that they can generate relatively modest profits on simpler projects. That might mean writing a personal guidebook regarding a given experience or skill; it might mean penning an original children’s book. Whatever the case, if it goes well it can result in at least a few thousand dollars to put toward a college fund.

Side Hustle 34: Illustrating Books

Similarly, some moms with a talent for drawing or graphic design may also find work illustrating books. A lot of authors ultimately wind up seeking illustration help, either for covers or for pictures within books, and some of hem (or in some cases their agents) will pay well for the help.

Side Hustle 35: Starting a Podcast

Podcasts aren’t easy to make a lot of money on, but they can generate some profits through subscriptions, patronage, or even ads. So moms with good ideas in this department may as well give it a shot!

Side Hustle 36: Starting a Food Truck

This is a little bit more of a side business than a side hustle. And as with brewing coffee, it’s an idea with which it’s important to measure costs versus revenue to ensure profitability. For a mom with a talent in a certain area of cuisine though, starting a food truck can produce meaningful side income.

Side Hustle 37: Performing in Public

Working as a performer — be it through music or something similar — is also a good way to bring in some cash now and then. On a busy city sidewalk or in a town public square, a talented performer can sometimes gather anywhere from $20 to $50 in an hour of work!

Choose the Right Side Hustle

So there you have some interesting ideas! Choosing the right side hustle for you will of course depend on your own talents, abilities and circumstances. But hopefully the breadth of suggestions above inspire you to give it some thought. You can choose from all kinds of side hustles for moms that can help with college costs. Some of them are even enjoyable or rewarding as well!

Written by: Lena Cusi 

Private vs. Federal Student Loans for College: What’s the Difference?

Private vs. Federal Student Loans for College: What’s the Difference?

Many students require financial support through a third party to fund their education. The financial help might come from a scholarship, from you (thanks, Mom!) or student loans. 

Confused between private vs federal student loans for college? Worried you’ll make mistakes as you try to choose the best option for your child?

That’s understandable — it’s important to consider various factors and choose the best combination of those types of aid. Both options work differently and have limitations, risks and benefits. They also have specific criteria which you need to fulfill before getting approved for the loan. Before borrowing, make sure you have a complete understanding of the chosen student loan option and its terms.

Guess what!! We’re here to put a spotlight on this matter and explain each of the student loans and the difference between these two loan types. Understanding the difference will help you choose the perfect student financing option for your kids.

Let’s jump in.

Contents

Private Student Loans

Private loans offer a higher borrowing limit compared to federal student loans. Your child can get private student loans from different sources such as credit unions, private banks or other financial companies.

Your child likely doesn’t have a decent credit history so may need a cosigner to get a private student loan. If you, as the parent, are the cosigner, you must offer a credit check to prove your creditworthiness. 

Kids may use a private student loan to pay for any expenses, including college tuition fees, room and board, textbooks, laptops or computers, transportation costs and living expenses.

Private student loans make up 7.87% of the total outstanding U.S. student loans, according to MeasureOne. Total outstanding private student loan debt: $131.81 billion.

Data courtesy studentaid.ed.gov

How Do Private Student Loans Work?

Private student loans work more like secured loans such as a mortgage or car loan. Every lender’s different, but here are some steps you might go through to get one:

Step 1: Shop around. 

Compare it all — interest rates, payment terms and fees — to find the most cost-effective loan that suits your needs. If you cosign when you borrow a private student loan, you’ll be responsible for making all the payments on behalf of your kids. It’s potentially risky, because if you can’t pay it back, your wages can be garnished to make the debt payments.

Step 2: Gather some information. 

You’ll need information like your address, Social Security number, school information, academic enrollment period, requested loan amount, employment information and more. 

Step 3: Fill out the application. 

Your lender may review a few things with you after you fill it out. 

Step 4: It’s in the lender’s hands. 

They’ll review your credit, additional information and documentation. Some lenders offer instant approval of your application.

Step 5: Choose your interest rate and repayment options. 

Involve your child in this process!

Step 6: Accept the loan terms. 

Don’t forget to sign electronically.

Step 7: Your lender will get verification from the college your child plans to attend. 

The school will certify your eligibility and enrollment and also verify the loan amount. 

Types of Private Student Loans

You can choose from three types of private loans.

Private Undergraduate Student Loans

You, the parent or cosigner, must submit credit and income proof for review. That way, the lender determines your ability to repay the loan. The lender also decides your interest rate. 

Private Graduate Loans

Private graduate loans are for graduate students and have characteristics similar to other types of private student loans. Your graduate student might need you to cosign the loan due to a lack of sufficient credit. However, a graduate student with a decent credit history may also apply and qualify individually for a lower interest rate. 

Private Parent Student Loans

Many private lenders offer parent loans directly to the parents who want to help a student pay for their education expenses. In this case, the student is not legally obligated to repay a parent loan.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are governed and provided by the U.S. Department of Education. They have lower interest rates and flexible repayment plans for borrowers compared to private student loans. 

Most student loans — about 92 percent, according to a June 2020 report by MeasureOne, an academic data firm — are owned by the U.S. Department of Education.
Total federal student loan borrowers: 42.3 million.
Total outstanding federal student loan debt: $1.54 trillion.
Data courtesy studentaid.ed.gov

How Do Federal Student Loans Work?

A federal student loan is part of federal financial aid and is also called need-based financial aid. Confused? Check out What is need-based financial aid? for more information. Here’s how federal student loans work.

Step 1: To qualify for a federal student loan, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA requires you to fill out information regarding your student’s financial status, especially about income and investments. 

Step 2: Hurray! You’re done! 

Once you submit the FAFSA, it’s sent to the schools your child’s interested in (you must choose them from a list on the FAFSA. 

Step 3: Financial aid offices use something called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and cost of attendance (COA) to determine your final financial aid award. 

The cost of attendance includes tuition, other required fees, room and board, textbooks and other expenses. The financial aid award may include several combinations of federal financial help such as federal Pell grants, federal loans and paid work-study jobs.

Step 4: Make some choices. 

You and your child must review the details of each federal loan and accept which loans you’d like to utilize. For example, maybe you want to take a Direct Subsidized federal student loan but decide not to take a Direct Unsubsidized federal student loan (more on the differences between those two in a second).

Types of Federal Student Loans

You can categorize federal student loans into a few general types. Each of them has special characteristics, terms and qualification requirements. Let’s check them out.

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized loans are need-based, which means you must show need in order to qualify for them. 

The federal government pays the interest on Direct Subsidized loans as long as your child is enrolled in school, for the first six months after he/she graduates and during any deferment or forbearance period.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized loans are for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Your child must pay the interest on unsubsidized loans, even while in school — the federal government does not pay the interest.

Pros and cons of Direct Unsubsidized and Direct Subsidized loans:

Pros
  • No credit check
  • A low, fixed rate of interest
  • Few flexible repayment plans
  • Prepaying the loan has no penalty
Cons
  • Lower loan limits
  • Students are required to file a new FAFSA form every year to maintain eligibility
  • The loan has stricter limits on usage, unlike private loans

Direct PLUS Loans

If you’re the parent of a dependent undergraduate student, you can tap into a Direct PLUS loan. PLUS loans are normally used to pay off the cost of education that other financial aid or loans do not cover. You’ll undergo a credit check to verify credit history.

The federal government caps the borrowing limit for Direct PLUS student loans. The loan amount limit may vary considering the type of loan, schooling year of your kids and whether the students are still dependent.

Differences Between Private Student Loans and Federal Student Loans

It’s important to know the basic differences between private and federal loan types. Check some of the standout differences between private student loans and federal student loans.

Eligibility Criteria

Your child can qualify for federal student loans if he or she is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and if he or she is enrolled in an approved degree or certificate program.

Your student may require a cosigner to get private loans and may have to fulfill a lender’s credit and income requirements. Your student must also enroll in an approved degree or certificate program to get a private student loan.

Interest Rates

Federal student loans carry fixed interest rates. This means the interest rate is the same for the rest of your child’s loan term, no matter how much market interest rates increase or decrease.

Unlike a federal student loan, you can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate with a private student loan. Variable interest rates may increase or decrease based on market conditions.

Grace Period

Both federal and private student loans normally allow a grace period, which means no repayment is required until another six months after your student graduates. As a parent, it’s a good idea to read the fine print on the grace period before applying for a student loan.

Repayment Plans

Federal student loans may offer you multiple, flexible repayment plans, such as an income-driven repayment plan and extended repayment plan. These plans are offered to help borrowers if they face financial hardship to afford monthly student loan bills.

You might assume that private lenders only offer one student loan option with a set interest rate and repayment terms. But this is actually not the case. Several popular banks and private financing companies offer a variety of interest rates, as well as flexible repayment plans. However, private student loan companies are not required to offer flexibility and they do not offer loan forgiveness. Loan forgiveness can be an option with federal student loans to help you pay off your debts

Forbearance and Deferment Options

Federal student loans offer forbearance and deferment options — but what do those actually mean?

Forbearance and deferment both mean that you can postpone student loan payments when you can’t afford them. The biggest difference between the two is that forbearance always increases the amount your child owes, while deferment can be interest-free for certain types of federal loans.

Most private lenders only offer deferment programs if you’re in the military or enrolled in school. 

Deferment and forbearance are the same for private student loans — interest always accrues, and your child must pay the interest.

It’s a great idea to ask private student loan lenders whether they will let you pause payments if you or your son or daughter can’t afford to pay the loan payments for a while.

The Benefits of Private Student Loans and Federal Student Loans

Private and federal student loans both offer major benefits, and the main benefit is that they help your child go to college when you or your child can’t pay the gap between scholarships, grants and tuition, room, board and fees.

Benefits of Private Student Loans

A few quick benefits of private student loans:

  • They help cover the gaps in your child’s financial aid award and educational costs.
  • They aren’t need-based, unlike Direct Subsidized loans. 
  • Most private lenders offer both fixed and variable interest rate options and loan terms for different borrowers. 
  • Private student loan lenders allow your child to apply with a cosigner for a better interest rate and increase your chances for loan approval.
  • You may be able to release yourself as a cosigner from your child’s private loans. 
  • Your child shouldn’t have to pay penalties if he or she pays off the student loan ahead of time in the vast majority of cases.
  • They offer competitive interest rates for borrowers or cosigners who have a great credit score.
  • You can tap into various repayment options, including deferred repayment, where you make no scheduled loan payments while you’re in school and during your separation or grace period.

Benefits of Federal Student Loans

Finally, check out some of the reasons you may want to opt for a federal student loan:

  • You don’t have to provide your credit history to get a federal student loan. 
  • A fixed-rate federal student loan protects your child from increases in monthly payments if the market interest rate increases.
  • Federal student loans also allow your child to apply for forbearance or deferment. They offer more flexible repayment options.
  • Borrowers can consolidate multiple federal loans under the Department of Education’s Direct program through one payment per month, and an estimated 7.37 million federal student loan borrowers are on an income-driven repayment plan.
Repayment PlanPayment CapLoan Balance ForgivenessCurrent Number of Borrowers on Plan
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)10 percent of discretionary incomeAfter 20 years1.31 million
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)10 percent of discretionary incomeAfter 20 years (25 years for loans taken out for graduate study)2.56 million
Income-Based Repayment (IBR)10 percent of discretionary income, or 15% if loan was taken out before July 1, 2014After 20 years (25 years for loans taken out before July 1, 2014)2.82 million
Income-Contingent Repayment (IBR)Lesser of 20 percent of discretionary income or the payment on a 12-year fixed-payment planAfter 25 years680,000

Data courtesy: studentaid.ed.gov

Get the Right Combo

As a parent, you support and guide your kids, and guiding them through the student loan process is no exception. Consider your options and choose the best one according to your needs and financial status. 

Good luck! 

The Most Comprehensive Junior Year of High School Checklist Ever

The Most Comprehensive Junior Year of High School Checklist Ever

Junior year is here! Yiiiiiiiikes! Whether you want to bury your head like an ostrich or tackle it like a linebacker, the reality is here: Two years till college starts.

As a parent, the crazy busy-ness of high school may have gotten even busier because now the time crunch descends. Between AP classes, extracurricular activities and homework every night, junior year is one of the busiest years leading up to college because your student is trying to do all the things!

You may wonder exactly what junior year should look like in terms of prepping for college. It takes planning and prep work to make junior year go as smoothly as possible! Read more for your complete college prep list for high school juniors! I’ve compiled a few things to keep top of mind with this junior year of high school checklist.

Beginning of the Year: Speak with Your Child’s School Counselor 

You don’t need to call up the school counselor or college and career counselor every other week. However, it’s a great idea to speak with or meet the school counselor in person at the beginning of the year. He or she will allow you to ask questions about core subjects, already-scheduled courses and more. Make sure you talk about a healthy college prep standard for core subjects: 

  • Four years of English 
  • Three years of math (though four is better!)
  • Three years of science
  • Two or three years of social studies or history

Make sure your child’s college and career counselor knows what schools your child put on his list up until now (it’s okay if it changes later) so he takes courses that align well with that college’s requirements. 

Don’t leave it up to the school counselor, however. It requires sleuthing on your part, too. Get on the website of the colleges your child is interested in and find out the requirements for each. Then communicate that with the school counselor so you’re all on the same page.

All Year: Grades, Grades, Graaaades

Beef up those grades. Colleges and universities want to see them whether you agree they represent your child well or not. Has COVID-19 caused your child to fall behind just a little bit? (Is it possible to learn Shakespeare over Zoom without the opportunity to talk to a teacher face-to-face? Hm….)

Keep on top of the college preparation process both during high school junior year and if your child needs help, make sure that occurs.

All Year: Get Going on Extracurricular Activities

What does your child love to do? Or maybe even more importantly, what does he really not like doing? Sometimes knowing what we don’t like to do is more important than knowing what we enjoy. It can help later on when your child makes major life decisions.

If your child hasn’t gotten super involved in extracurricular activities in high school, it’s not too late to get involved. Also, don’t forget to encourage your child to look for leadership positions within those extracurricular activities. 

All Year: Talk About a College Savings Plan

Don’t have a college savings plan set up yet? No worries. You can always start one now! It’s not too late to put a plan in place even though your child’s a junior. 

If you’ve already been contributing to a college savings account, discuss with your student and other family members how you’ll continue to contribute to that account. Evaluate how far the money in the account will go to pay for college. How far will your child get on the amount of money you’ve saved? Do you need more or can you pay for some of it out of pocket? How creative can you get with paying for it out-of-pocket, through side hustles and more?

Finally, have the conversation about how much it’ll cost your child out of pocket.

All Year: Talk About Colleges

What kind of school is your child thinking about? A vocational-technical school? Community college? Four-year college or the military? What do you think fits your child best? If you just know your child will perform best in a private liberal arts college but all she wants to do is look at state universities, it might require some discussion and give and take on your part.

Talk about careers but don’t focus too much on those or majors — your child will likely change her major! 

Job Shadow

Let’s say your child really doesn’t know what kind of school to look into because he or she has no idea what he or she wants to do for a living. I normally don’t advocate for picking a school based on major, but let’s say your child is really interested in a trade, like welding. In this case, I advise job shadowing because it’s one of the best ways for your child to determine what type of school to choose. 

On the other hand, if your child knows she’s destined for a university — she’s had her mind made up that she’s going to a four-year school — don’t worry so much about the major. Pick the school based on its own merits and opportunities and the major will follow.

All Year: Collect Information

Gather college information through college fairs, college nights and any special alumni. (Did your next-door neighbor’s child go to the No. 1 school on your child’s list? Set up some time to chat!)

Make a list of schools your child would like to visit and keep that updated. Check out my free spreadsheet for the college search!

Note a number of things on the spreadsheet, including cost, merit scholarship requirements, size, location, distance from home and more.

Fall: Help Your Child with that Resume!

Do you know a thing or two about putting together a resume? Stick to what you know, then get a professional to look at it if you’re not confident. One of the best things you can do is proofread the resume for silly mistakes like spelling errors. 

Case in point: When I was an admission counselor, I’ll never forget how one kid wrote “Delivered toilet trees to the community center” on his resume instead of “toiletries.”

Don’t let your kid be the “toilet tree” kid. 

Don’t forget to remind your child to add the following:

  • Any awards
  • Community service achievements
  • Academic accomplishments
  • Work details
  • Anything else your child participates in

Fall: Get Ready for the ACT or SAT — or Not

Does your child need to take the ACT or SAT? You and your child need to decide together whether it’s worth it to take it. 

In any normal year, your high school junior would study for the ACT or SAT with gusto. You’d encourage him to start studying for the SAT/ACT and SAT subject tests as soon as the calendar turned to September.

Your best bet is to get on an email chain or get on the phone with admission counselors to help you decide whether your child needs to take one of these tests. If you decide it’s important, start studying using practice exams.

Fall: Take AP Classes

AP classes are standardized exams designed to measure how well your child mastered the content and skills of a specific AP course. Your child takes an end-of-year paper-and-pencil exam to evaluate how well he did on the test.

The benefit? Most U.S. colleges grant credit, advanced placement or both for qualifying AP scores.

Ask about International Baccalaureate, CLEP or dual enrollment courses as well.

Fall: Take the PSAT

The PSAT/NMSQT is offered in the fall. How to get ready for test day: Ask your child’s school counselor when her class will take the PSAT/NMSQT and check out a free practice test. Make sure she eats a healthy breakfast the day of the exam!

Spring: Take the AP Exams 

Your child can take the AP Exams every year in May at many high schools and exam centers. Check with your school counselor to learn more.

Spring: Take the ACT or SAT — or Not

If your child elects to take the ACT or SAT or the college your child is looking into requests it, sign up for the ACT or SAT and have your child take one of those tests — not both. Shoot for anytime in the spring. There’s no reason you shouldn’t opt for April for the ACT or March for the SAT.

Spring: Plan the Senior Year Schedule

Talk with the school counselor about putting together a class schedule for senior year. Encourage your child not to take the easy way out — take classes that aren’t a cake walk during senior year, however tempting it is.

Spring: Plan Campus Visits

Here’s how I advise planning campus visits

  1. Use the website only to look up the phone number for the admission office at that school.
  2. Call the admission office and talk to the campus visit coordinator or someone in a similar role. The campus visit coordinator schedules your visits, particularly if they’re personal campus visits, which are one-on-one visits.
  3. Talk in detail about your options. Does your child prefer a group campus visit or a personal campus visit?
  4. Ask about specific requests, like meeting with a specific individual on campus. 
  5. Schedule the visit and go!

All Year: Apply for Scholarships

There’s no law that says your child must wait until he’s a senior to apply for scholarships. Now’s the time to hop online or have your child ask the school counselor if he can apply for community-based scholarships. 

I recommend using the Scholarship System to help your child get scholarships — it’s a comprehensive system to get judges to notice your child’s application.

The Scholarship System will give your family all the tools you need to find the perfect scholarships, create competitive applications, save tons of time on the process and actually get scholarships. Check it out! You can join for just $1!

All Year: Work on Building Those Relationships

Everyone needs to work on all relationships — with school counselors, admission counselors at colleges, teachers at school (they’ll write your child’s letters of recommendation!) and everyone else you can think of. It’s good in general to build positive relationships, so do your best to make connections with those around you and encourage your child to do the same. 

Build these relationships without ulterior motives, too — “If I make friends with this scholarship official, maybe he’ll give me the scholarship…”

No, none of that! 

Make genuine connections and friendships without thinking about how you and your child will benefit from the relationship with employers, coaches, activity leaders or other adults. 

Be the Cheerleader

It doesn’t end after the last day of junior year — in some ways, you’re just getting started! Continue to learn more about financial aid, work on visiting more colleges over the summer and write down all deadlines for college applications, college scholarships and more. Encourage your child to apply to colleges the minute applications open — some open over the summer!

Give your child so much encouragement because your high schooler works so hard during this process (hopefully this junior year of high school checklist helps). It’s not easy, especially with so many deadlines, things to remember and different requirements for all colleges. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This