Do you know who your high school counselor is?
If your answer is no, you aren’t alone. According to a five-year study by YouthTruth, just 60% of seniors and 32% of juniors received counseling on how to apply for college. Only 44% of seniors and 23% of juniors spoke to their counselor about how to pay for school.
But counselors have a wealth of knowledge to share, and their support can help you through the college application process. So, instead of going it alone, reach out to your school counselor about college admissions and financial aid.
To help you get started, we’ve listed the five most important questions you should ask your school counselor about college.
1. How do I make a college list?
You have 3,700 colleges to choose from across the U.S., according to the College Board, so narrowing down your list to eight or 10 can be a challenge. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your school counselor for tips on building a college list.
For one thing, your counselor can help you figure out what you want. Would you prefer a small, close-knit school or a sprawling urban campus? Are you looking to stay close to home, or are you ready to fly across the country?
In addition to helping you set goals, your counselor can help you choose a few safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. Together, you can estimate your chances of getting in based on factors such as your grades and test scores.
Finally, you can talk with your counselor about college costs and financial aid. If cost is a factor, your counselor can direct you away from schools with sky-high price tags or help you find colleges with robust financial aid programs.
By seeking guidance from your counselor, you can compile a list of colleges that match your goals and budget.
2. How do I pay for college?
After you discuss your academic goals, your counselor can help you with the financial aspect of college. They should explain how to pay for college, whether your approach includes using savings, student loans, scholarships, or a mix of all three.
Students with financial need also might qualify for need-based grants and scholarships. According to U.S. News, the average need-based award in 2016-2017 was $15,243.
Before you can get financial aid, though, you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so speak with your school counselor about how to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible.
And stay on top of FAFSA deadlines since they can vary by school and state.
3. How do student loans work?
According to U.S. News, about 67% of high schoolers in the 2016 class borrowed money to pay for college. That same year, the average college student graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt.
This kind of debt can be burdensome, especially right after you graduate from college. So, before you take on too many student loans, speak with your counselor about how student loans work.
Ask your counselor about the difference between federal and private student loans, for example. Discuss how student loan interest works. And make sure you understand the different repayment plans.
Finally, use one of our student loan calculators to estimate your future monthly payments. By learning about student loans, you can make an informed choice about borrowing.
4. Where can I find scholarships?
One way to reduce the financial pressure of college is to apply far and wide for scholarships. Ask your counselor about where to find scholarship opportunities, whether they’re on the national or local level.
Your counselor can point you toward scholarship search tools. Plus, they might know about scholarship opportunities in your city or town. They also can help you find the awards you have the greatest chance of winning.
By going after scholarships, you can reduce the cost of tuition at your dream school.
5. Can you help me explore majors and careers?
School counselors aren’t there just to help you with the nuts and bolts of applying for college and submitting the FAFSA. They also can help you reflect on big-picture issues, including your academic and professional goals.
Plus, they can connect you with resources for exploring college majors and careers. Although your plans might change over time, setting goals at the outset will help you get the most out of college.
At the very least, you’ll become more aware of your strengths and passions and gain a clearer sense of why you’re going to college and what you’re working toward.
Ask for support during the college application process
The college application process can span several years, and you have to keep track of lots of moving parts. Add your high school classes and activities, and it’s easy to get stressed out.
But you don’t have to go it alone. Seek out your school counselor for guidance on applying for college and getting financial aid.
Ask questions along the way and gather all the information you need. You’ll get to know your counselor, which will be useful if your college requires a counselor recommendation letter.
In the end, your counselor is there to support you academically and emotionally. Work together to make the best decisions for your future.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|