A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my new and improved college search spreadsheet. I explained what was added to the first tab to help you and your student identify potential colleges and track college applications. Today, I want to talk about the second tab that I added to the college search spreadsheet.
The second tab of the college search spreadsheet is for use after college applications have been completed and acceptances start coming in. When you enter a college name and cost information on the first tab of the spreadsheet, these automatically fill on the second tab.
The main purposes of the second tab are to track and compare cost information between the schools against what you can afford and to keep track of notifications and deposits you send to the schools.
The key to making the cost comparison work as designed is knowing what your family can afford to pay for college. This is based on the following:
- What have you saved for your child’s college?
- What can you afford to pay for college out of your cash flow every month?
- What are you expecting your child to contribute towards the cost of college?
These three numbers will get entered on the second tab of the college search spreadsheet. These numbers, along with any merit aid and/or need-based aid offered to your student, are subtracted from the cost of a specific college to come up with the Amount Not Covered. This amount is what you will have to come up with, over and above what you already said you could afford, to send your child to that college (based on the initial financial aid offer).
In order to effectively use this information, you will need to wait until you have received financial aid packages back from the colleges that are accepting your student. These typically go out after March 1, although some colleges notify students of merit aid offers along with the admissions decision.
What can you do if you have an Amount Not Covered for one or more of the schools your student hopes to attend? Well, for starters, you can try to negotiate your student’s financial aid offer. Some schools are open to talking about this. Some schools will even ask you what other schools are offering and will bump up their offer accordingly. Other schools aren’t even open to negotiating at all. You won’t know until you ask.
Look into how many hours a week your student would need to work during college to make up the difference between what you can contribute and the Amount Not Covered. If that is not an option, you may need to look into loans.
Laying all of this out in the college search spreadsheet will help you to see which college(s) offer the best deal and how financially reachable each college that accepts your student will be.