How am I going to pay for this?

If you're like many students and their families right now, you may be struggling with your college choice, especially if your family's income has been reduced during these challenging economic times. The cost of a Christian college education may seem like an intimidating obstacle. Allow me to encourage you with a few simple thoughts...

1) Remember that although a college or university has a particular price, that doesn't mean that will be the cost to your family.

A recent poll found that 53% of students surveyed indicated that they had ruled out specific colleges based on cost alone. studentPoll: Published by College Board and Art & Science Group - April 2009

This is an alarming statistic that demonstrates that students and their families often may not understand the role of financial aid in the process. Please do not make the mistake of ruling out a college based on cost alone. It's actually more the exception than the rule that a student/family pays the full cost of the school. The amount of financial aid awarded to each student will vary dramatically from student to student based on such factors as financial need and academic, athletic, leadership, out of state and a myriad of other scholarships and grants the school may award. So please keep in mind that just because a school's "price" is higher, that does not mean that your families cost will be greater at that school once your final financial aid package is provided.

2) You and your family must go through the process of acceptance and receiving a financial aid package from the school before you know your cost for the school.

Don't be discouraged by the initial price of the school when it comes to making your initial decisions about which schools are of greatest interest. Let's say for example that you have been accepted to three different schools, each with a different cost. You may receive a total of $5,000 of financial aid from one, $7,000 from the second and $12,000 from the third. Until the financial aid package is received from each school, you won't know which school is most affordable. In the end, you may find that a college with a higher "initial cost" may have a final cost that is not much different, or even more affordable, than another school because of a generous financial aid package. Even within Christian colleges you may find a great range in regards to cost and financial aid, so you owe it to yourself to go through the process of learning what the true cost to your family will be, then you can factor that into your final college decision.

Also be certain to compare "apples to apples" making sure that you do not look at loans and work-study opportunities in the same way as scholarships and grants which will not need to be repaid.

3) Christian colleges certainly understand the economic times we are in, so if you have concerns, explain your situation early in the process.

Do not wait until after you have received your financial aid package from the school to have this conversation with them. Perhaps a candid discussion with your admissions rep will reveal a scholarship or grant that you may be eligible for that you were not aware of before. Honesty and candor is always the way to go, so work with your representative in the admissions office. Once you've been accepted to the school, remember that the admissions office is eager to have you enroll.

Finally, please commit your college decision to prayer. Allow God to direct you and ask for His wisdom and guidance.

Enjoy the search!

Thom Seagren
The Christian Connector, Inc.
Christian College Grad, Class of 1987