6 Steps Students Should Take Before Choosing a School

Choosing education after high school is a significant undertaking that has financial implications on the rest of a student’s life.

Here are six steps your clients’ students can take while they’re still in high school to make the optimal choice for themselves.

1.) Do Research

Student Loan Hero reports that doing research should include talking to current students and alumni, finding out what the average salaries of graduates in the desired program are, and finding out about things that matter specifically to that student (for example, Greek life, volunteer organizations, study abroad programs, etc.).

U.S. News & World Report noted in an article, “How to Avoid Dropping Out of College,” that students should also research retention rates at their top choices, specifically for their demographic.

2.) Make a List of Top Choices

Students should have a short list of all the schools they would want to go to. Even if they do get into their dream school, it doesn’t mean their dream school will give them a good aid package. The second choice may be the best financial decision.

3.) Visit the Top Choices

Have the family schedule campus visits for all the student’s top choices to see if the culture is a good fit. It’s important to get a feel for a school before making a financial commitment to it.

4.) Do the Math

Crunch the numbers of the aid package for each school the student is accepted to. It might be that a private institution, though it costs more, is offering the student more merit-based aid and less loan “aid” in the financial aid package. Also, don’t forget to factor in loan amounts to determine the ROI on each individual school.

5.) Work With the Numbers and Plan

Negotiate with the financial aid office. Have the student apply for merit-based and affinity group scholarships. Have them figure in what family aid or 529 plan funds they have at their disposal.

“Students and families really do need to sit down and do that long-range financial planning and be very deliberate about that, because it’s four years—it’s a significant investment,” Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College in Georgia, said in the U.S. News & World Report article.

6.) Be On Top of It

Don’t procrastinate. It’s only January, but the time to start planning is now.

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