College Money Chronicles

Apr. 4, 2020

Figuring out how much a college costs is half the battle. We all have heard of the pricetag attached to attending college, but few people know exactly how much it will cost to get an education at an instituition. Many people will look at the sticker price and become overwhelmed and disillusioned with the prospect of attending college all together without taking the time to do the actual math needed. In order to figure out if a college is affordable for you, you need to determine your "gap."

What is the "Gap"?

A "gap" is the amount of money needed to satisfy the bill directly with the university. The gap is money paid directly to the college after all scholarships, grants and student loans have been applied to the student account. 


Why is it important to determine the gap?

Your gap gives you a better picture of exactly how much is needed to pay out of pocket to attend a school. This number does not include books, miscellaneous expenses, personal or travel as these are all estimated expenses that a student and family can control and though important are not paid directly to the university. 

How do I determine my "gap"?

Once you get accepted to a college be sure that school is listed on your FAFSA. You will receive a financial aid award letter listing all financial aid the student is eligible for from the college. A student will receive a financial aid award letter from eac college he/she is accepted to AND is listed on the studens FAFSA.

Use these calculations to determine "gap"

Tuition + Fees + Room + Board = Direct Costs

Direct Costs – Scholarships Awarded – Grants Awarded = Net Cost (Out of Pocket Cost without Loans)

Direct Costs – Scholarships Awarded – Grants Awarded – Direct Student Loans = Gap or Bill (do not include Work Study or Parent PLUS Loan


What should I do after I determine my gap?

Compare the final “gap” or “bill” of each college after completing these calculations. See which school is most affordable with and without student loans.

College should be approached as a financial decison. By completing these calculations and comparing costs the student and family can become smart consumers in the college game. With student loan debt on the rise we have to educate ourselves about the pitfalls of college financing and approach it with as much information and prepration as possible. Be smart about college money!

Feb. 16, 2020

Found this gem of a photo from my daughter's high school graduation in June. I was elated that day! She's a college freshman now living her best life! AND yes she followed the steps I preach to all my students:







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Jan. 4, 2020

I gave my seniors an assignment today to gauge how serious they are about getting money for college. The fact of the matter is, as a counselor/teacher I see how important it is for students to apply themselves throughout this college money process. I also understand how overwhelming the college process can be for a teen. The assignment asked them to read and take notes on three financial aid articles. I find pretty good articles online about ways to finance a college eucation. After reading the articles I asked them to do the following:

Write an essay of at least 500 words describing how you plan to completely finance your college education for the next 4+ years. Use commentary and insight from the three articles you read in class today. Please answer the following questions within your essay:

  • What is a common theme among the 3 articles?
  • What are some steps you can take to reduce college costs?
  • Why are local scholarships important? How do you find them?
  • How can your senior project community service hours benefit you when looking for scholarships?
  • Give at least one personal example of how these articles can apply to your personal college financing journey.

For me it is important to see how badly the student want to finance their college education. While they completed the assignment I watched them. I wanted to see who would take it seriously. Happy to report that all, but 3 really took the time to complete it throughly. When I read through the essays there were some really insightful responses. My effort matches theirs during this process. I sit at my computer day in and day out sending out materials to scholarship organizations in hopes of my kids landing some college dollars. But I can't do it alone. I think it was key for the students reflect on their own desire to finance college. So often the parent is pressing the child to apply to scholarships, but there has to be an intrinsic motivation. 

My final thought to the youth... just keep pushing forward. The scholarship game is no joke but with continuous work and dedication you'd be surprised what can come your way. 

Dec. 1, 2019

I say words that motivate. Sometimes harsh. Other times kind but always truth. Most times people need courage. They know what they need to do. They know how to do it, but sometimes they need a push in that right direction. I like to be that push. I like to ignite that fire. Even if they think they don't want me to, I like to push until they take off on their own.

Motivation can look like:

1. Giving words of encouragement to take action
2. Cheering on the sideline during a challenging feat
3. Sitting quietly next to someone as they complete a seemingly difficult task
4. Listening while someone tells their deepest dreams and passions
5. Helping people realize that they are not alone in their journey

There are millions of ways to motivate. People need to hear how they can do it (whatever it is) so they can believe in themselves.

Go push someone to greatness. It will make your day I promise.

Thank you to all my motivators for without you my life would look so very different.

Nov. 1, 2019

Financial Freedom is something that we hear a lot as adults. Getting free from any type of debt whether it be credit card debt, student loan debt, anything that we owe to someone else. Once you become parents a lot of people want to bestow a sense of financial freedom or at least a strong financial foundation for their children. But with lack of education or poor money habits some parents don't know how to do just that. A little piece of advice from Dana Martin College.


It is not a sprint it is a marathon and learning about money takes time effort and habit forming.

Be clear on where you stand financially. It could be a very pretty picture or a ugly sight, but knowing where you stand gives you the best foundation so that you know where you need to go from there.


For all of my parents that want to send their kids to college put together a college money plan. Learn about savings options. Learn about college savings investment plans. Learn about early scholarships. Learn about tips and tricks to get your child ahead of the game as early as possible. Children tend to perform better academically if they know they have some money set aside for college.

I get it. We are trying to live our lives and clean up debt and save as much money as possible so that we can live the life we always dreamed. At the same time we are rearing children who are just beginning their dreams and we want to be as big of a support as we possibly can. The best thing that we can do for our kids is to become financially stable and set a great financial foundation and example for them. If possible also providing a financial path for them to afford the college of their dreams (if that is their choice).

Let's talk about it! Tell me what you think below 👇