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Terry Savage: Off to college

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

If you’re one of the millions who will head off to college in the next few weeks, here’s some practical financial advice to make sure you get off to the right start.

Eva Dodds is an accredited and experienced college adviser. Her company RootCollegeAdvising.com helps families start preparing for college well in advance, with advice on everything from getting financial aid and finding affordable schools to writing all those applications and even negotiating for more money.

Even at this late stage, Dodds says, the right approach could make all the difference between affording college and having to take a pass. She calls these summer months “the meltdown season” — when families of accepted students suddenly confront the affordability issue and may even decide their child can’t attend.

Dodds says the schools don’t want to lose the students they have already admitted, so financial aid offices are willing to listen to your requests. But, she cautions, you must be specific about what has suddenly changed in your family finances, such as changes in income or sudden medical bills or other new expenses. And demonstrate how much money you need to fill the gap.

Some other suggestions:

—Ask if you can delay your start until mid-winter or even next year, so you can work and save money for school.

 

—Ask if the college has online courses you could take while living at home and cutting the cost of attendance.

—And, as a worst-case, ask if you can defer admissions while attending a community college — but check to make sure those credits will be accepted at the school of your choice.

And Dodds has some other important money-saving college tips:

—Consider applying now for a job on campus or in the immediate neighborhood. Don’t wait until everyone arrives seeking work!

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