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Tips on finding an ideal price range for colleges when parents won't help?

culaccinoculaccino Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
High school senior here. I've tried asking my parents about what price I can reasonably apply to and pay for, but they aren't being helpful at all. Here's how the conversation mostly went:

Them--"Make sure you get good grades! You need to get scholarships. We actually don't have any savings at all right now."
Me--"Did you just say we have no savings? What if our house floods or something?"
Them--*shrugs*
Me--"So approximately what's the cap I can put on college tuition?"
Them--*shrugs* "You don't have to worry about that if you get good grades."

I left feeling very confused. Later on, I asked if they have any retirement money saved up. They said no.

There is no way that is possible. So my dad might buy the unnecessary shower head a few times, but no way a middle aged man would have 0 dollars saved for retirement.

Here's the thing: my parents are the kind that wants to shelter me from finances, so sometimes they give me bad answers, or really vague ones, to financial questions I have so I don't know what's going on. Sometimes, they're telling the truth. Usually, I can't tell which is which. I'm still working on it though. They'll come around...eventually.

In the meantime, I thought I would ask CC. Here's what I do know:

Family Income: about 100K (before taxes)
Family members: 2 in elementary, me, mom, dad.
Me: 100% sure I am a national merit semifinalist (and likely finalist)
I'm not sure what else to put sorry...if you let me know I'll try my best to get that information. Thank you so, so much for helping me out here!

TL;DR: Fam's not telling on financial situation, I have no idea what my ideal tuition range should be, so I'm asking the CC community.
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Replies to: Tips on finding an ideal price range for colleges when parents won't help?

  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,263 Senior Member
    Your tuition range is 0 unless your parents agree to pay some amount...meaning that you have to find schools that will cover all or nearly all of your costs for being a NMF.

    I think your parents are trying to tell you that they live paycheck to paycheck and therefore won't be contributing.

    What are your SAT or ACT scores? What is your GPA?
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 1,151 Senior Member
    "You need to get scholarships. We actually don't have any savings at all right now."

    There, they told you exactly how the land lies. You need to get max scholarships. As your parents won't get a lot of FA, you can look to generous endowment schools (but these are a highly unlikely admission chance for any student) as you would be a high flier as an NMF, look at auto tuition schools. But take your parents word for it, line up your local commutable 4 yr on full tuition scholarships if that's a thing, look at the NMF scholarships list.
    Have your parents run your fafsa EFC, run NPCs for endowment schools to ballpark that, and then NPCs for any schools that are of interest, but really, they did tell you. You just are not hearing it.
    100K before taxes is not a big salary for a family of 5. If he has a job he probably has a 401K. Where do you live?
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 13,293 Senior Member
    You'll have a few good options. Look for the full NMF schools. Look at your instate schools and for instate scholarships (Florida, Tenn, GA).
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 30,474 Senior Member
    edited September 2
    Are your parents expecting you to get a dull ride or full tuition scholarship?
    Ask your parents if they can afford 5,000 a year (about 500 a month) for your college expenses. That wouldn't cover any tuition but if you're a NMF and you get a full tuition scholarships for that, it'd would help you pay for transportation, books, food on campus etc., if you commute. With summer job earning, a part time job during the year, and the federal loans it'd help pay for room and board somewhere. (Loans are capped at $5,500 a year for freshmen).
    Ask your parents if they make more than 125k. If not, with a family of 5, you'd be eligible for financial aid at many "meet need" universities. They're all highly selective so hopefully you've started on your common app essay, because all these colleges will have long supplements.
    For instance, if you can get into Stanford they *guarantee* you a minimum of full tuition scholarship if tour family makes 125k or less.

    What state do you live in? You should consider the top 2-3 Universities and apply to the Honors college there.

    Then, there are Universities with generous scholarships (often full tuition, sometimes full rides) for test scores. Some are highly competitive and expect much more than scores: McDermott at UTD, Wilson at App State, Robertson at UNC and Duke, Benacquisto at UF, many at flagships depending on your state. The Cincinatus program at U Cincinnati has specific NMF scholarships, as do UAlabama, Ole Miss, UOklahoma... Look at the website "public honors" they have a secrion for NMFs.
    Basically type the flagship for eaxh state + NMF scholarships and see what comes up.

    Donyou know your EFC? It's the minimum you can expect to pay in most cases.
    Run the NPC on two top 25 private universities, two top 25 LACs, your state flagship.
    Bring the results to your parents. Which one(s) can they pay?
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,138 Senior Member
    If there is a flood, there is likely insurance coverage. Even if your parents have retirement saving, it is not recommended to spend that on your application particularly with 2 younger siblings after you. You should probably ask what if your father lost his job. So you should really take his words and look for maximum merit aids. With NMSF, you do have a lot of opportunities. They are right that if you have good enough grades and test scores, you don'tneed to worry too much. Perhaps it may be not the best school you want to attend, but you will get good education. Many students cannot afford the s hools they want to go anyway.
  • BuckeyeMWDSGBuckeyeMWDSG Registered User Posts: 229 Junior Member
    edited September 2
    Look for "how to pay for college workshops" high schools and universities host these and ask a parent to attend with you because you need their help understanding student debt and loan terms. The workshop usually has a list of items to bring if you can manage it (like w-2's, tax returns) or you can use estimates. They will explain to you and your parents 'the lay of the land' and how things have changes, how students (with help from universities, states, foundations, parents, grandparents, income from co-ops, etc) are paying for college, and the importance of filing the FAFSA (it seemed like even though we never received need based aid this was a requirement to be considered for merit aid, so has to be done). Parents can be a real road block and prevent a student from the ability to get a college education by not co-operating in the financial aid process. They will also explain how student loans work and the differences between them. It is very important you gain as much financial literacy as quickly as possible, you are about to invest in something more expensive than a home, with debt that can follow to death and reduce your social security check decades from now if unpaid. It's good you are asking questions, good to get your parents involved and good to plan ahead. I read a lot about students being concerned about having their assets counted on the fafsa, don't worry about that. It's better to have a chunk of money in your bank account so you can cover expenses to accept a co-op offer and make more money, than to be spending time making ends meet. Apply for colleges and if you can't pull your financial plan together, see what your options are for a gap year to build savings.
    http://www.commonapp.org/how-pay-college
  • powercropperpowercropper Registered User Posts: 1,374 Senior Member
    You need your parents to cooperate in filling out the FAFSA federal forms. Some schools also require you to fill out additional Profile forms asking for detailed financial information.

    If your parents are super secretive and skeptical of sharing financial information, or if they are not filing and paying their taxes each year, you may not be able to qualify for merit scholarships at all.

    It is vital to ask questions now to confirm they are willing to fill out the financial forms.

    Also important to ask if they have any limitations to where you can attend college. Your NMF top scholarship offers may be spread around the country. We have seen parents refuse to cooperate just because they decide at the last minute they don't want their child to be 12 hours from home.

    So, talk with your parents again, but this time avoid asking actual money questions. Ask if they are willing and able to fill out FAFSA. If they are vague, let them know you can't continue your college search without their cooperation on the FAFSA form.

    If they agree to FAFSA, thank them and then get busy finding a full ride scholarship. Assume they can pay Zero towards your college education. Pick a safety college you can commute to while living at home, plus your NMF and other automatic merit scholarships.

    If you share your stats for home state, GPA and test scores, and possible major, other parents here can help direct you to colleges that you might be able to afford.
  • scmom12scmom12 Registered User Posts: 2,632 Senior Member
    If your parents won't tell you their finances, then pick a few schools - at least one or two in-state public - and give them the links to NPC or ask them to sit down with you to fill them out. That might be eye opening for them. If you tell us what state you are in and the schools you'll get some more advice from some smart people that are here. Be warned that some situations will make the NPCs not as accurate (own a business, etc).

    Are you a short drive to an in-state option? Ask your parents to go with you for info session and see if you can talk with admissions counselor. Might help to hear some of this from another person. Have they talked with your HS GC?
  • techmom99techmom99 Registered User Posts: 1,649 Senior Member
    I am one of those parents who is secretive about my income and assets. I fill out both portions of the FAFSAs as I do not believe that my money is my children's business. With that said, I told each of them that I could afford for them to attend a state school (SUNY, in my case) and to guide themselves accordingly. My daughter earned scholarships and worked as an RA, so I was able to pay for her masters' as well; otherwise, that would have been on her.

    You should ask your parents how much they can afford and follow the advice above.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 61,547 Senior Member
    edited September 2
    It is best to assume that your evasive / secretive parents can contribute $0, but do not want to admit that to you.

    Look for full ride scholarships from these lists. Verify on college web sites, since some may have changed.

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/20798968/#Comment_20798968 (potential safeties if you meet the requirements)
    http://competitivefulltuition.yolasite.com/ (potential reaches for the scholarships)
    http://nmfscholarships.yolasite.com/ (if you have National Merit, includes both automatic and competitive scholarships)
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 1,944 Senior Member
    You are very lucky to be a national merit semifinalist. Get all that paperwork done to become a finalist and hang out on the national merit board and learn about where you can go to college for free.

    Note that before you get a scholarship from a school, you will have to gain admission. Do not blow off doing a good essay, keep your grades up, etc. A few scholarships are automatic for all NMFs, but there are others you can compete for if your record of achievement and extra curricular activities is strong. Do the automatic ones first, then reach.
  • NEPatsGirlNEPatsGirl Registered User Posts: 2,056 Senior Member
    ^This is how I handled it. I used the instate flagship for a budget and D worked with that number. I agree that my finances are not my childrens' business, including any child support I receive(d) for them.

    You need to get a definitive number from your parents to how much they will contribute each year but you don't need to know anything else about their finances.

    With an income of less than $100K and a family of five, there is a good chance that you can afford some of the 100% need met schools IF you can get admitted. You haven't provided test scores here, your home state, what you'd like in a school so its all hard to advise you. My experience in the NPC with these schools is that with that family income profile you may be able to get the COA around/below $10K which can be covered with student loans and summer earnings.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,263 Senior Member
    edited September 2
    <<<
    With an income of [about] $100K and a family of five, there is a good chance that you can afford some of the 100% need met schools IF you can get admitted.
    <<<

    This isn't really true. The EFC could be $17k+ per year with an aid pkg that may already include full loans. His parents aren't using state schools as a budget guideline. Their words suggest that they're not prepared to pay anything towards college. Where would he get the $17k+ per year?

    This student needs to assume that his parents budget is such that there is no extra money each month (and this is the case with many families with good incomes because of mortgage, car payments, and lifestyle). This student needs to assume that he'll be funding all of his college with HUGE NMF merit, a $5500 student loan, and maybe $3-5k from summer earnings and part-time school year earnings.


    >>>
    It is best to assume that your evasive / secretive parents can contribute $0, but do not want to admit that to you.
    <<<

    True! Again, this usually means that the parents know that they don't have extra money leftover at the end of each month. In fact, they may be using credit cards or running a CC balance.
  • culaccinoculaccino Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Woah okay first of all, I just want to thank everyone for the support. I was not expecting this many responses and I'm glad so many people replied!

    However, I do think there is a tiny bit of a misunderstanding here. It's probably my fault for not being clearer, but I was trying to say that while they said they have no savings, it was only to keep me out of the loop on their finances.

    So they do have money saved for my college. I just have no idea of how much.

    I'll have to admit though, I was not taking the finance part of college as seriously as I should have. The people here woke me up out of that, and I managed to have a serious conversation with my parents just now and they finally said that less than 40K is good, and higher costs too with scholarships.

    For those who are asking, here are my stats:
    Asian, TX
    SAT 1580 ACT 35
    SAT II Math 790
    GPA: 4.0
    Rank: Top ten, lower half out of 450+ students

    Again, thank you so much for replying! I really appreciate it :)
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