Q & A With Educational Consultant Loveena Bhagwat

What do you think is the best way to get financial aid for college?

If we’re talking about financial aid, the best way is for the students or the parents to fill out the [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] by going to the government-owned website [https://fafsa.ed.gov/]. They have scholarships that are listed on Naviance. [Students can] also look at outside websites. And don’t forget the college’s own scholarships, [which] are usually dependent on students’ GPA, a major that they’re planning on pursuing or any other criteria that the [university] may have. So don’t forget to also look at the university's website, they would also have specific scholarships.

Do tuition costs deter students from attending college?

Sometimes they do. In some situations, parents may not be able to fund a student’s education, in which case loans would have to be taken out, but the interest rates might end up being overwhelming. Students often can go a community college for two years, and … finish off their last two years at a four-year university. If the students feel that it’s something that’s going to put a burden on their family, some students … go straight to work, hoping that they’ll go to college in the next few years, but other students have collected all the money that they can and then decide to go to college. So it can differ, but it depends on what the student wants to pursue. I guess some careers require you to have a college education but [for] some you just need a certificate, or if they have some skills that might allow them to go into other jobs like a mechanic.

How does the rising price of college play into this?

I think since many careers require a college education, families might start saving earlier. There’s lots of different ways, like opening up mutual funds. Families will most likely start saving ahead of the curve, [but] sometimes unfortunate things like stock market crashes … do happen. So it’s very important that families do fill out the FAFSA, especially because there are no guarantees. It’s also important for students to explore colleges that aren’t the top 100, because there’s over 4000 colleges in the United States itself, and many of the colleges are looking to give loans, and it’s not necessarily only for the students with a higher GPA. As long as students are willing to go out of their comfort zone and go to maybe a school far away, they should be fine.

What advice would you give a student or parent struggling to pay for college?

Depending on what the student’s major is going to be, I don’t believe that families should sacrifice their livelihood for that. But at the same time, I think it is worth it as long as it is a career … where the student is earning enough money to where [he or she] can pay off the loans. I don’t think [students] should hesitate to take out loans, as long as [they graduate with] a major that will allow them to pay it back. Keeping their mind open to other colleges is going to be the key, if they’re strapped financially.