As you prepare for the college billing process, the information below will help you stay a step ahead. You can also watch our Paying the College Bill webinar.
Report Private Scholarships
If you have received any scholarships, from your high school, town or city, or elsewhere, be sure to report them to the college or university. The college needs to include them as part of the overall aid package. In most cases, outside scholarships lower the remaining balance (net price) that you have to pay out of pocket, but they can also be used to reduce the amount of your loan or work-study award. To find out how your school incorporates outside scholarships, contact the financial aid office.
Anticipate the College Bill
Your first bill will arrive in the summer, and will likely be due in late July or early August. But you should start creating a financing plan early on. If you think you may need to borrow to cover some of your costs, don’t wait until the bill arrives to start the process.
Your first bill:
- Will include direct costs such as tuition, room and board, and health insurance (if you are covered under a family health insurance policy, check with your school’s billing office to see if you can waive the school’s health insurance fee)
- Will not include costs such as books, supplies, and other incidental expenses, which you will have to pay for separately
- Will deduct financial aid grants, scholarships, and loans from the direct costs of enrollment
- Will not list work-study funds as part of your financial aid, since you will need to earn this money through a part-time job while you are enrolled
- Will show the costs that are not covered by financial aid as your remaining balance
To help prepare yourself for the billing process, take a look at a sample college bill — and try out our My College Cost Calculator to estimate the remaining balance you will need to pay when your bill arrives.
Pay the Remaining Balance
If you are like most families, you will use a combination of resources to pay the remaining balance on your college bill. These resources can include:
- Past Income: You may want to divide your savings and college investment plan assets equally over all four years of college, or use more savings now or later depending on other sources of existing and projected funds.
- Current Income: To help you pay with income you are currently earning and anticipated gifts, many colleges offer interest-free monthly payment plans that allow you to split your bill into smaller, more manageable payments over several months. Contact the college financial aid or bursar office for further details.
- Financial Aid: Even if you missed a college’s institutional aid deadline, you may file the FAFSA at any point before or during the academic year to be eligible for the Federal Direct Student Loan. You have until May 1 to file the FAFSA for Massachusetts state aid consideration.
- Future Income: You may want to apply for a private education loan, such as a MEFA loan. If you do, be sure to consider how your income and expenses may change in the future — and whether this will affect your ability to repay the loan. Read our tips on borrowing wisely.
The more you can pay with savings or with an interest-free monthly payment plan, the less you will need to borrow — and repay with interest and fees. Use MEFA’s Loan Payment Calculator to create your college bill payment strategy.