Student Health Insurance
Most every college has a health insurance option for students. They automatically place a health insurance charge on your college bill. This is important to know, as you could end up paying for the school’s health insurance without realizing it if you do not closely review your college bill.
If you have your own health coverage, make sure the Financial Aid or Student Billing Office knows that you will continue to cover your student under your own insurance plan, and instruct them to remove the health insurance charge from the bill! You may be able to easily do this online. There is usually a deadline to make this request, so make sure that you are proactive.
Make Sure Vaccines are Up-to-Date
Colleges require up-to-date immunizations, in addition to annual physical documentation. Your student’s college should get in touch with you over the summer about this, or you can visit their website to check out what is mandatory. Some colleges will not give students their dorm room key on move-in day until these important items are taken care of.
Does your student take prescription drugs? If so, you will want to either stock up before they head out for school, or locate in-network pharmacies near them. Maybe you can take advantage of one of the convenient online order services which means one less thing to worry about. This is important to consider, since many colleges do not allow freshman to have cars on campus unless they’re commuters.
The Student Health Center
Most colleges have health centers, but what they offer can vary. Some are able to diagnose and treat many illnesses, while others are simpler and will refer your student elsewhere depending on the severity of the condition. Both you and your student need to familiarize yourselves with the health services the college offers as soon as you set foot on campus. While we are on the topic, did you know that most urgent care centers can treat common ailments, such as the flu, rashes, pink eye, and sprains? If the school’s student health center offers minimal services, an urgent care center is the best bet for treatment while keeping costs down. Of course, if your student is experiencing shortness of breath, severe bleeding, or head trauma, they should head to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resources
Let’s face it: College is tough. It’s also when signs of depression or mental illness can begin to show, even if your student never had symptoms previously. And, if we’re still being honest, it’s when students may start drinking or experimenting with drugs. We hope that these things don’t stand in the way of an incredible college experience and a bright future. Before they leave home, make sure they have an access line to connect them to the resources they need. Of course, stress is a normal part of life and college. Students should certainly work toward mitigating the effects of stress by taking advantage of their school’s free fitness center and focusing on healthy eating habits. Drinking plenty of water and (trying) to get a full night’s sleep never hurt, either.
Out of State Coverage
One question we get asked is whether the student is covered under the parent’s health insurance plan if he or she goes to college out-of-state. Having a student go to a college out of state doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep your student on your insurance plan. It depends upon your provider network, so call your insurance company to get the full details.
Still Have A Balance?
When reviewing your financial aid award letters, you noticed that there was a number called the “Cost of Attendance.” This number is higher than the sum of tuition, fees, room, and board. And that’s because this figure includes other expenses that your student will incur throughout the school year, but that the college does not include on the bill.
The most common non-billed expenses:
These are better known as “Indirect Costs.” Remember that because these expenses are not directly billed, you often have more control over how much you spend on them. Look at non-billed expenses as an opportunity to cut costs, so you have more funds left over for paying the college bill.
Books. Every college student will have to buy books at some point. While the campus bookstore may be convenient, it’s also usually the most expensive option. Better to look online for places that rent textbooks, or consider buying them used.
Students can usually purchase a digital version of textbooks for their e-reader for a cheaper price than the physical copy.
Laptop. A laptop can often be one of the priciest non-billed expenses. Check for college student discounts, as some companies such as Apple and Microsoft offer them.
Travel. This cost can vary significantly depending on how far your college is from your home AND how often they go home. If the school is within driving distance, a bus is usually a financially smart option.
Or even better, your student can check the bulletin boards in the student union to see if they can find a ride from another student going in the same direction. If your son or daughter must fly to get home, try to plan your visits in advance. Plane tickets are usually much cheaper when bought months ahead.
Dorm Needs. For students living on campus, you will need to acquire furniture and supplies to outfit the dorm. Most dorms come with only the bare minimum– a bed, dresser, and desk. Students typically need to provide their own bedding, TV, appliances, and any sort of decoration.
If they have roommates, your student should try to coordinate with them before move-in day to avoid ending up with multiples of the same item.
Parking Fees. If you plan on having your student bring a car to campus, expect to pay a fee. Many colleges require students to have a parking pass in order to park their car on campus– and the passes can cost hundreds of dollars each semester.
Insurance can also increase depending on where the school is located. Consider leaving the car at home while living at school. They’ll still have access to it on breaks and over the summer.
Food and Beverage. Although most colleges require students to have a meal plan if they live on campus, students will still typically spend money on food outside of the dining halls. Late-night pizza, a coffee from Starbucks in the morning, or lunch at a restaurant with friends can all quickly add up.
Students can save money here by viewing dining off-campus as a special experience, rather than an everyday activity. They can save the Starbucks lattes for the weekends, and stick to coffee from the dining hall on weekdays.
Still Have A College Bill Balance?
You’ve likely had a plan in place for several weeks to pay the fall semester bill. But what happens when your student arrives on campus and discovers there’s still an outstanding balance on his or her account? Often, all you need to do is simply complete a requirement, or follow up on a payment to take care of unresolved costs.
Reviewing this list below can help you make sure college finances are in order.
• Students have the option to borrow loans from the government. It’s as easy as signing the Federal Direct Student Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN). Required for all first-time borrowers, signing the MPN will allow the loan funds to credit to your student’s account.
• Next is to complete Federal Direct Student Loan Entrance Counseling. Also required for first-time borrowers, Entrance Counseling walks students through their loan responsibilities. The college will provide instructions on how to complete this requirement.
• Make sure all private scholarships from outside entities have arrived, and been credited to the account. If your son or daughter received any scholarships not awarded by the college, call the billing office or check your student’s account online to make sure those funds have been sent to the school and placed in your son or daughter’s account. If not, make a quick call to the scholarship provider to find out when the funds will be sent.
• Do you have more than one student in college? You may need to provide confirmation of sibling enrollment to each student’s college.
• Ensure your payment plan is in place. If you opted to use a monthly payment plan for college costs, make sure your payments have been reaching the college in a timely manner.
Still not sure why money is owed for the Fall semester? Call the college billing office to review the charges and payments. There may be an error on the account, a new fee you didn’t expect, or a charge that could possibly be waived.
Make sure to resolve any outstanding balance ASAP to avoid disruption to your son or daughter’s first few weeks of class. And if last-minute financing is needed, ask about institutional loans with the college or see if your state has a student loan program that’s superior to a private loan a financial institution may have.
Rising High School Seniors
Parents with a student who is entering their senior year need to know how to minimize costs. There are three easy steps to take control of the admissions and financial aid process.
The first is identifying colleges that will discount your student’s tuition. A discount is the same as a scholarship and a grant. There will be colleges that want your student more than others. Find schools that will reward them for their hard work. You’ll need at least a dozen of them that match your student’s preferences, grades, test scores, and your ability to pay.
Nothing is as effective to increase your odds of paying less for college!
Become A “Financial Aid Guru”
The second thing is to become your own financial aid guru. Learn as much as you can about financial aid EVEN IF you think you won’t qualify — because you just might! Then check each college’s website to find out what is required. Each college has its own way of doing things. At one college, you may only need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). At others, there may be additional forms, different requirements, and deadlines.
Finally, Don’t Be Afraid Of A Little Arm Twisting
Doing the above could encourage colleges to offer bigger discounts off tuition– and that could save you a year or more on the price of a four-year degree. When it comes time to do a little horse trading, you’ll have the ammunition you need to put your student in the catbird’s seat. Having done reconnaissance beforehand puts you in the position of knowing when you have a winning hand, and if you don’t, which cards you need to draw. That way you go into negotiations coming from a position of strength.
This is so important, because after accepting a college’s award package, changing it is like trying to break tempered steel. If you don’t get it right the first time, the odds are you won’t get a second crack at it. By completing each step, your chances of a great college offering your son or daughter a terrific award package increase significantly.
Some parents wouldn’t dream of going grocery shopping without a coupon or two. Many people don’t buy a car without looking around for one that best suits their needs and is one they can afford. Lots of us use online booking sites to find the lowest fare on a flight or cheap rate on a hotel room.
Think of it this way: waiting to find the best way to pay for college is like waiting to purchase homeowners’ insurance until your garage starts burning to the ground. It’s just too late.
Well, that’s it for this month.
P.S. If you find this newsletter helpful to you please share it with other parents like yourself!