News Thumbnail

Four Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to College

by Martial Frindethie

Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. It’s easier to analyze and evaluate events after they’ve already happened, rather than when you're in the middle of them.

As part of The Millstone Evans Group team for over 10 years, I’ve heard so many stories about planning for college and the financial challenges that families face when it comes to the high cost of tuition. Along with my own experience, these stories have inspired me to share the following four things I wish I knew before applying to college.

1. Many Families Do Not Pay the Listed Sticker Price for A College Education

You know the term “sticker shock?” It refers to the astonishment and dismay you feel when you see the listed price of something that seems far out of your budget. I had sticker shock when I saw the cost of colleges and they’re only increasing. I know many families feel the same, and it can very intimidating.

Next to a home mortgage, the cost of attending college is one of the largest expenses a family will face. But here’s a heartening, and not-so-hidden, secret you may not know: very few students end up paying the full tuition price advertised by the school. In fact, only 25% - 40% of undergraduate students in public universities end up paying the full price of a college education. Almost 90% of students at private colleges get some kind of financial aid, with the average discount being around 50% of the listed cost of attendance. Understanding how much you will really end up paying for college not only helps families plan for the cost but can also bring more expensive schools you may have dismissed back into your world of options.

2. Colleges Will Offer Discounts to Their Advertised Prices So They Can Compete for Students

It’s easy to forget that although most colleges are not-for-profit schools, they still operate as big businesses. Schools want to attract the best students and they’ll compete to do it. One way they compete is to offer a or scholarship or discount off the tuition sticker price.

In many cases, you can leverage the scholarships and discounts you get from one college to get a more attractive and affordable tuition package at another.

3. You Can Appeal Your Financial Aid Award Amount

Did you know that most colleges allow you to appeal the financial aid amount you have been awarded based on special circumstances, including recent unemployment or income change, medical expenses, homelessness, and childcare costs?

Since the appeal processes vary by school, you will need to contact the school’s financial aid department. But typically, the appeals process includes writing an appeal letter that clearly states the need for more aid, the amount required and an explanation of your circumstances. Make sure your letter gets noticed by addressing a specific person within the financial aid department.

4. The Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans

When you turn 18, you’re not really thinking about how you’re going to repay student loans or even when you must start paying those back. At least, that was true for me. You’re so excited to be accepted in the first place, who cares how much school costs?

Well, the answer is you and your family will…and soon. That’s why It’s important to learn as early as you can the difference between the two types of student loans available. With subsidized student loans, the loan interest is paid by the Department of Education while you’re enrolled in school. This means you don’t have to worry about accruing interest on the loan amount while you’re struggling with a 12 – 16 credit course load. Unsubsidized student loans will accrue interest as soon as the loan is accepted. Had I known this, I would have used the income from the two jobs I worked during my freshman year to at least pay the interest each month.

In hindsight, foresight is better, especially when it comes to paying for education.

If you would like to learn more about education savings plans or just discuss smart strategies for approaching tuition costs, please contact me - This kind of advice is something we offer our clients and I’d be pleased to explore what can be an extremely complicated process with you.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more blog posts on education savings plans and how families can evaluate options and plan ahead for tuition costs.