College financial aid is complicated, and merit aid is one of the most misunderstood components. As we discussed in the first part of this series, some colleges give merit aid, and some do not.
In this second of a three-part series about paying for college, financial aid and merit aid, I interviewed college financial aid expert Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution, whose informative blog and parent course are superb. We dug deep into how parents can help their kids begin the college search process with a frank conversation about family finances, which can avoid hurt feelings and disappointment after college admission decisions arrive.
In our wide-ranging discussion, we show examples of college net price calculators – both good and bad – and we went into depth about merit aid. If you are financially in a situation where you believe you probably won’t qualify for need-based aid (remember – need is different at each school, so you could qualify for aid at some but not others! More on that in Part 1 of this series!), you should be looking for colleges that give merit aid, which is generally awarded based on grades and test scores.
Lynn shares her expertise to help you understand which colleges give merit aid and how you can help give your child some direction on their college search if merit aid is an important factor.
QUICK TIP: We are often asked if parents will be “penalized” by saving money for their kids’ education. Lynn addresses this towards the end of the interview. The short answer: NO! It’s always good to save money!
Lynn also shares her views on the real value of a large college vs. a small college, and she shares where her kids went to college. We can learn so much from experts who take their own advice!
In this short video, reporter Jeff Selingo, who embedded with three selective colleges during their application reading seasons, gives further explanation and depth to help you understand why some colleges offer merit aid and some do not. His advice to do your research and make sure you include colleges that do offer merit aid on your college list is spot-on! Much of the disappointment we hear is from those who expected merit aid from colleges that don’t have a track record of giving it. Another argument for starting early, learning how the process works and proceeding having learned the ground rules!
In the final post in this “paying for college” series, wealth manager Aaron Kirsch interviews me about the return on investment (ROI) of college.
If you have any questions or if you need some help through your child’s college search and application process, feel free to get in touch!