The National Association of College Admissions Counselors hosts a major college fair in the Twin Cities each year. This year’s fair is October 24th and 25th at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
With over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States odds are good that 90% of them are schools you have never heard of before. The Minnesota NACAC College Fair offers students and their parents a unique opportunity to talk to representatives of many of these schools as well as many others that are more familiar to Minnesota families.
It’s free and open to the public. You can register online here.
Come prepared. Know your student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), class rank, ACT or SAT scores, as well as any unique information about your student such as musical accomplishments, leadership activities or anything else that you think might help the admissions process or help you to qualify for academic scholarships.
You will also want to have some basic information about your finances: approximate annual income, value of non-retirement assets, as well as financial information about your student.
When you talk to the reps of the various schools ask them about their financial aid program. Your conversation might go something like this: “I have a daughter with a 4.0 GPA and a 32 on the ACT score. She’s a D2/D3 golfer who wants to study engineering. What kind of financial aid opportunities would she have at your school?”
They might say, “We offer generous merit-based financial aid for a students like yours. In fact, your student may qualify for our President’s Scholarship of $15,000 per year”.
Or they could say, that they don’t offer any merit-based financial aid but do offer a significant amount of need-based aid at their school. The type of aid that you will qualify for will vary from school to school depending on your financial information and the academic merit of your student.
If a school gives you a vague answer like “Well, 92% of our students receive some form of financial aid and the average award is $10,000”, ask them to be more specific. Remember, student loans and work-study programs count as financial aid. So a $10,000 award that may be mostly loans and a job, won’t help you very much.
Take good notes and go on to the next school asking them the same questions. By the end of your visit you will have a good idea of what schools might be a good fit for your student.
Other key questions to ask:
- What is your average 4-year graduation rate?
- What is the “total cost of attendance” at your school?
- How much is the average tuition increase?
- Do you offer any unique scholarships that we should consider?
- Does your school offer merit-based financial aid?
- What percentage of financial need does your school meet? (some schools may offer to meet 100% of your financial need).
If you come prepared to talk to a lot of schools and ask smart questions, you will learn a lot about admissions, the financial aid process, and the types of schools that might be a good fit for your student.