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What Should I Do if My Family Can't Afford Tuition?

Tuition can be expensive, unfortunately. If you've been accepted to a college you love but don't know how you'll pay for it, here's some expert advice.

William T. ConleyWilliam T. Conley
Dean of Enrollment & Academic Services
Johns Hopkins University
First and foremost, you and your parents must have an open discussion about the general realities of how much your family can pay for college. There should not be specific dollar figures mentioned, just a sense of what factors need to be considered: other expenses, younger brothers or sisters, employment, and whether taking on student loans to help pay for college will be an option. But even if resources are limited, you should not exclude higher-cost colleges from your list of colleges. Need-based grants and/or merit scholarships could make the most expensive sticker-price college the most affordable one. If financial aid will be critical in your choice of colleges, your entire list of colleges should be #1 colleges!

CX Expert GenericBrendan Coughlin
Former President of Education Finance
Citizens Financial Group

Students and their families should consider discussing their financial concerns with the school to see if there is any additional assistance available. Each school is different in how they will respond, but having an honest discussion about your challenges is always the best approach. If they can’t offer more financial help, they will typically provide recommendations and advice on what to do next. There are also a lot of private scholarship programs out there. For example, Citizens Bank offers several scholarships; just fill out the free form to be entered to win one of 12 monthly $2,500 scholarships, a $2,500 DEI scholarship, and the annual $15,000 grand prize. Be sure to ask your parents if their bank, employer, or another organization they belong to offers similar opportunities. 

To get more quick and helpful advice, check out the answers to other important questions in our Financial Aid—Ask the Experts section.

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