Decision Day: Choosing the Most Affordable College

Is the school a good financial fit?

Tuesday is the day that many students and parents have been anxious about all year: Decision Day.

Thousands of high school seniors will choose which college they will attend in the fall, and it's arguably one of the most important decisions they'll ever make.

Parents may be interested in a prestigious college while students may be looking at the social scene.

But is the school a good financial fit?

Colby Frazier, a high school senior we spoke with, has been accepted into 10 colleges across the country. The DeSoto student has been anxious about Decision Day. 

"It's a bittersweet feeling because you're just like, wow. I've been accepted to such a great university but you're also like, how am I going to pay to be able to go here?" she asked.

Consumer Reports Editor and financial expert Donna Roseto said students like Frazier should be focused on the money.

"A lot of people think about the academic fit, the cultural fit of the college but they really don't think about whether it's going to be a financial fit," she said.

Roseto said many families won't delve into the financial aspect of college until after Decision Day, and she believes this is a huge mistake. 

"There's a student debt crisis in the United States. Students owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans and the average student graduates with more than $37,000 in debt. 

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions that can help you and your student make the best financial choice on Decision Day.

Read over your financial aid award letter. It should give a break down of how much the school costs and how much you'll have to pay to attend. 

If you're not happy with what the school is offering, submit an appeal to the financial aid department at the school.

"If you've had a change in your circumstance, say a parent has lost their job, you've had big medical bills, you may be able to reword the offer and give you more aid," said Roseto.

If your second or third choice is offering more money than your first choice, ask them if they can do better.  

Much like a job offer, Roseto said colleges may be willing to match when it comes to financial assistance. 

But not all schools will be able to make that happen, so, a student loan could be inevitable for some students. 

If that's the case Roseto said students should not borrow more money than they expect to make annually coming out of college

"You know, the same rule of thumb for a student applies for parents. Don't take on more debt than you can handle, especially if you have more than one child in college, especially if it's going to cut into really important things like saving for retirement, your daily living expenses," she said.

Frazier told us she's narrowed her choices down to two schools. She does have a favorite, but plans to key her eye on the money.

"Hopefully some of these scholarships come through and provide a miracle," she said.

For more information about obtaining a last-minute scholarship, click here.

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