Can we predict college costs? Should we expect financial aid? How do we set expectations, both ours and our kids’ about the budget for college? These are the questions my clients are asking.

Last week I spoke with a high school college counselor to get the inside scoop. Zorina Matavulj sits in a large workroom at Woodside High School and counsels students and families all day (and evening workshops too!) about college admissions and financial aid. Zorina says:

  1. Educate yourself about what schools cost. There are some terrific free online databases that break out tuition, fees, books, living expenses for most schools in the nation. Compare the CSU and UC systems, out-of-state public and private schools.
  2. Forecast your financial aid award. Online calculators allow you to use the Federal Financial Aid formulas to estimate what type and size of awards to expect given your financial situation. Primarily this is going to be in the form of work study and loans.
  3. Do well in school and don’t fall prey to college branding. Kids don’t need a 4.0 GPA to have access to the largest pot of college funds – money from the schools themselves. If kids (and parents) are open-minded about the schools they consider, they open up tremendous opportunities.
  4. Extracurricular – encourage your kids to do what they love! Don’t try to create the perfect resume for the “brand name” school. Even if there is no school-based club or team, find a way to be engaged in a non-school passion.

Best wishes,