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What questions should I ask a college admissions counselor?

Sorting Out Your Finances

College is expensive, and financial aid is often a major concern. Although you may want to explore all the colleges that will entertain your application, eventually the discussion rolls around to tuition. The following questions will help you understand the policies of different schools and get you moving in the right direction. Just because a school may seem out of your league doesn't necessarily mean that it is. Financial aid is designed to help students who need it, so you may be a better candidate than you think if there are factors like your academic standing or a special talent that make you stand out in a crowd.

Try to get a sense of where the school places the most emphasis by asking questions about the scope of its financial aid programs and packages, where they're concentrated and how they're awarded. Some may favor athletics while others have more of a focus on the arts or sciences.

Ask if there is a separate application process in each category, too. Some schools may require multiple applications for scholarships and aid, while others will work from a single initial application. Colleges will generally have multiple awards that will favor specific qualities or needs. Knowing how your strengths fit into this dynamic will give you the best opportunity to find the most comprehensive financing for your education. Another good thing here is that the schools which have the best financial support for the disciplines that interest you will probably be a better fit for your style and goals anyway.

Other important questions to ask are:

  • What is the yearly tuition?
  • Are there work-study programs available?
  • What is the cost of living on campus, and does it include room and board?
  • What are some of the ancillary expenses I should know about? This could include anything from laundry to parking costs. There may also be specific expenses associated with a particular major.

Armed with this information, you'll be in a better position to start planning for the help you need or to make a financially focused decision to look elsewhere.

College should be affordable and comfortable. On the next page, we'll take a look at ways to make sure that the college you choose is a good match for your disposition and outlook.