College Planning Center of Rhode Island

College Planning & Financial Aid Advice

Empty nest: The month before your child leaves for college

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Aug 18, 2014 2:57:54 PM

You have been living with your child for 18 years and the time has come for her to leave home. Your child's departure to college can leave you with lots of mixed emotions – from pride to loss – but there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the transition and help yourself let go.

While you will always remain your child’s parent, you are first going to have to recognize that your parenting will have to change now that your child won’t be living at home.

It may be tempting to want to spend every moment with your child these last few weeks before he leaves for college, but it is natural for him to want to spend most of his free time with friends. Give him the freedom to do this but also make sure to schedule a special time – such as a family dinner – where you can catch up and celebrate this next step.Empty_Nest_iStock_000016612172Small

Set aside time to dorm room shop

Shopping for a student dorm room can be a great bonding experience for you and your son or daughter. You will need to be there so that he or she can make practical choices. Also, you want to be sure your child has all the essentials (band-aids and tissues!). But remember to let your child make design choices that he or she will be happy living with – after all, the dorm room is a student's space and a chance to express him or herself.

Talk with other parents

You don’t need to deal with your child leaving home all on your own. Lots of other parents are in the same boat. Plan an event or two for the beginning of September where you can all get your minds off of the fact that there is one less person living in your house and bond over games and dinner.

Send care packages

Even if you live close, send care packages to your child. Who doesn’t love getting something special in the mail? Include favorite non-perishable foods, quarters for laundry, a special note – whatever you want that will help your child feel a little bit like home.

Encourage good financial management

With the freedom of college comes a lot of financial responsibility. Make sure your child understands how to view their bank account balance and balance a checkbook. Educate them about the dangers of debt and credit card use. Encourage them to create a weekly budget based on the total amount they have for the semester, and to stick to it regardless of peer pressure.

Be more flexible with your limits

It will be very hard to set limits for your child from afar, and most likely, those limits will fall upon deaf ears. To ease the transition, try being more flexible with your normal limits these last few weeks your student is at home.

Set a plan for visits and calls

It will be easier for you to deal with your child being away if you know when you will see them next or hear from them. Set up a time to have a regular call with your child – at least for the first few weeks –so you can check in with each other. Also, plan a time for your child to come home for the first time. Columbus day weekend is a great time for that, as long as they won’t be going to college too far away.

Hang in there!

Remember, this is an exciting time for your child, and you helped them grow into a wonderful adult. Be proud of your child’s accomplishments, make sure you tell them you love and miss them when you speak, and hang in there!

Packing for College: 10 things you can't live without

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Aug 7, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Packing for college is not an easy task. When you are living at school, you have to squish hundreds of items into one tiny dorm room that you share with a roommate. There are certainly some things you may want to bring to school that may be better left behind, but here are our top ten picks that you should definitely not leave behind. 

1. Your teddy bear.iStock_000002654108Small_TeddyBear

Yes, we know - you are in college, and you don't need your teddy bear any more (but rock on if you do!). But what we are getting at here is that it is essential that you bring something special that makes you feel like you are at home. Living at school is exciting, but many college students get home sick. Having that special something at school with you, whether it's a stuffed animal you grew up with, your favorite pillow, or just a picture of your family, will help you battle the away-from-home blues. 

2. Your IDs.

With all of the other things you need to remember to pack, don't forget these! Without them, you won't be able to register or find a campus job. So, while you are busy checking off shampoo and bedding on your packing list, don't forget to bring your license, a copy of your birth certificate, and your social security card. 

3. Stinky breath doesn't make a good first impression. 

How many times have you gone on vacation and arrived at your destination to realize you forgot your toothbrush? While this may be an easy thing to pick up at the local pharmacy if you forget it, it's a hassle you just don't want to have to deal with on your first day of college. 

4. Ahem, your underthings. 

While you are busy trying to figure out just the right thing to wear on your first day of school, don't forget the things that go under your clothes. It's a good idea to bring 2 weeks worth of undergarments. You'll find college life is busy and sometimes it's easy to procrastinate doing laundry. Having two weeks worth of undies will prevent days of having to walk around campus commando. 

5. Prescription medications. 

This is another small item that is easy to overlook but essential to have. If you take prescription medications, make sure you have enough for your first month of college - at least - and that you pack them the morning you leave for school instead of leaving them behind in the medicine cabinet.

6. Laundry bag

A basket works too but it does take up a lot more space. You don't want to be hauling loads of laundry down four flights of stairs in your arms. Think of all of the embarrassing things you could drop behind!

7. First aid kit

The first time your scrape your knee at school, you may want mom to kiss it better, but she won't be there to help. Make sure you have band-aids, ointment, painkillers, tissues, and cold medicine for those times when you hurt yourself or aren't feeling so great. 

8. Rain gear

Like it or not, wherever you go to college you are probably going to be dealing with at least a little rain. At college, you do a lot of walking. So when there is a downpour and you have to make it to your 9am class, you will be glad that you brought a rain coat and umbrella so you don't have to suffer through lecture in cold wet clothes. Make sure your umbrella is a sturdy one that will hold up to the windiest of days. 

9. Can opener

You are probably to be pulling some all-nighters at college. And when you need a second dinner at 3am, it's likely going to be coming from a can. Make sure you have a can opener with you so you aren't forced to suffer in hunger longingly starting at your can of yummy soup. 

10. Formal wear

While it is tempting to walk around in sweatpants and t-shirts all of the time, campuses often hold formal dances and other events so it is best to come prepared. Also keep in mind you will need something professional for any job interviews you attend. 

For a full list of what to bring to college, click here

Still need some help figuring out how you are going to make your tuition payment? Make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI and we can help you sort out your options. 


Topics: packing for college

How to Pay Your College Tuition Bill

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Aug 4, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Getting admitted to college is one thing. Finding ways to pay your college tuition bill is another. Very simply speaking, loans cost you in the long run, so it just makes good sense to exhaust all other sources of financial support before going the loan route. Start with scholarships and grants for college tuition. While they may come with restrictions, millions of dollars are available for any number of reasons.


The scholarship search available through the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is specially equipped to aid students from Rhode Island. You will find scholarship aid for students of animal science, from the Shriners of Rhode Island Trust, for students of certain ethnic origins, and in memory of deceased individuals.

Hundreds of other online search engines will identify millions of scholarship options. is one of the oldest and places high expectations on the scholarships it lists. There are tens of thousands of scholarships out there, some offered by churches, fraternal organizations, professional membership organizations, and more. Download the College Planning Center's List of recommended scholarship sites. 


Grants for all or part of your college tuition are free money. There are made available by federal and state programs as well as other sources. They are usually attached to eligibility requirements and restrictions.

Financial Need 

Federally sponsored Pell Grants are the most common of support with students who demonstrate financial need. If you completed the FAFSA and qualified, a Pell grant would be included in your financial aid award letter.

Critical NeedsDesign_Interns_iStock_000029554856Large

The Federal TEACH program supports students who are pursuing studies in areas determined to be critical needs. Critical needs grants can be given on top of the Pell Grant and may need to be paid back as a loan if you don't meet their requirements after graduation. If you are planning to pursue a career in teaching, contact your college financial aid office about this grant opportunity and learn more here

Diabilities & Illnesses

Students who have suffered disabling illness or have special needs are eligible for grants from non-profit organizations service the specific disability, such as National Association of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hereditary Disease Foundation, American Cancer Society, and more so check out these sources if you fall into one of these categories.


Students who have served in the military or the children of parents who served may be eligible for grants through the G.I. Bill or through veterans' organizations.


Religious groups often sponsor students in their congregations. Larger grants may be available through national church organizations like the National Baptist Convention or the Missouri Lutheran Synod.


Athletes compete for scholarships that may be attached to additional grants. But, this is also true for accomplished musicians, artists, videographers, performing artists, and other talents. Such grants are offered by state and local governments, women's organizations, journalism associations, music organizations, colleges, and the like.

Special Studies

Some students have a passion for what may be seen as special studies. And, there are grants to fund these studies in female issues, African studies, Native American archeology, or Pacific Island paleontology. These grants are usually funded by private parties or related organizations.

Industry Sponsored

Some businesses provide grants (and internships) to students to feed their talent pipeline. Business sectors like finance and investment, agriculture, fabrics, oil, and insurance all provide student grants.

How grants & scholarships work

Grants for college tuition pay your bills without adding to your financial burden. There is no debt to accumulate and no interest charged. It is a great accomplishment to graduate without debt, especially when you are facing new expenses in the real world.

When you are faced with mortgages, car payments, marriage and family, it is great to be debt free. When you look around and see fellow graduates owing payments on loans in the six figures, you'll be happy you aren't one of them.

How to find money

Now, finding available scholarships and grants is time-intensive. Finding free money is harder than finding and applying for loans. But that convenience comes at a significant cost. Parents are better advised to think early and consider:

  • a 529 Tuition Payment Plan that accumulates earnings tax-free as long as they are used to pay tuition
  • similar prepaid college tuition plans offered by some states
  • tuition payment plans available at some schools divide your college tuition into 12-month installments
  • advanced courses completed in high school reduce tuition costs when transferable.
  • plans to cover or reduce tuition offered by student or parent employers.

Entering college takes a lot of time and work. Parents and students are smart to start early and prepare a strategic plan. The College Planning Center of Rhode Island can help your with your college search and assist you with applying for financial aid. Check out their section on Financial Aid 101.

Topics: scholarships in RI, scholarships in rhode island

Where to Shop for Your College Dorm Room

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 30, 2014 5:00:00 PM

Your time in college is a period of personal growth. It means life on your own, a time when you can invent yourself and express your personality. What better place to start than fixing up the college dorm room where you are likely to spend the next year.

Whatever college you are looking at, it probably has a list of what you can and cannot put in your dorm room. The college staff are not likely to check everything you bring unless it is way out of the norm - like a fish aquarium or a pet boa constrictor. But, a checklist is a good place to start when determining what you should pack for college. Once you have settled on what you need or want to bring to your dorm room, sit down with you family to create a budget for how much you can spend on the things you don't already have.


You know the image everyone has of college students going to class in their pajamas? Truth be told, you are going to spend most of your time in your dorm room in or on bed. It's natural to want to get cozy in your PJs when you settle in to study. Most rooms do not have room for lounge chairs, unless you are able to bunk your bed. Your bed will require sheets and pillowcases and a blanket. Many dorm rooms have beds in the extra-long twin size so be sure to check with your college before you make your purchase - regular twin sheets just won't fit! 


You will want to bring your own pillow if required and a mattress cover. A comforter may be a luxury, but a soft throw will help for lounging around.

If you have some cash to spend, check out PB Teen. The Sophie Floral Essential Bedding set is a great pick for the ladies. (Complete the looks with Clover Dot Sheets)!  

On a budget? IKEA has some great picks such as the BJORNLOKA Duvet Cover and Sham for $39.99 or check out your local HomeGoods or Target for some fashionable bedding for less.


Most dorm rooms come equipped with beds and simple desks. Most have a closet or wardrobe and not much more. Your local big brand stores have what the college does not provide. You might want a more comfortable desk chair than the school provides. You also may have room for easy-to-assemble storage bins and shelving units. Consider taking advantage of storage cases for under the bed and hanging storage bags with compartments to expand your closet space. Bed risers or good ol' cinder blocks can increase the amount of storage under your bed but check with you school if this is allowed. 


Students are expected to bring their own electronics to their college dorm room. That includes a TV, DVD player, computer, speakers, or anything else you don't think you can't live without. Depending on the room, you will need a desk lamp and/or bedside lamp, the kind of simple and low cost items you can find at IKEA or Target easily. You would be smart to bring noise cancelling headphones, chargers, and extension cords. And determine ahead of time the cabling you will need to access the campus internet, if any. For bigger items, like a TV, talk with your roommate and decide if you can share and save. 


Avoid feeling homesick by bringing a little personal style to your college dorm room. If decor is important to you, pick out unique and affordable area rugs (we love this affordable 3'x5' Morroccan Trellis rug from Overstock), bulletin boards, picture frames, curtains, and wall hangings. You can also find a wider selection of comforter sets, lamps, and chairs. You should consider how much you can transport easily and what your roommate's taste in decor. IKEA is a great place for find low cost versions of these items. 


Depending on whether or not your college dorm room has its own bathroom or your shower and bath facilities are shared, you will need some personal supplies.. You need your own towels (these textured towels from Target a a great pick!) and washcloths (minimum of two sets). A bathrobe, shower caddy, and flip flops (get them for less than 5 bucks at Old Navy) will take you to a shared shower facility. If you have your own bath, plan on a bath mat and shower curtain, cleaning products and a toilet brush. And, stock up on your personal toiletries: deodorant, shampoo, razors, and so on.


Most college dorm rooms do not have kitchens. But, an increasing number share some minimum cooking resources in a common area or suite arrangement. If allowed, you may want to split your needs with your roommate(s). You could share a compact refrigerator, microwave, and small coffee maker. If so, you may also need some plates, cups, and eating utensils. And, you should invest in cooking utensils and cleaning supplies. Work out the costs before hand, and budget your share. Check out Target or Walmart for some great deals. 


Dormitories usually have laundromats, but access is not always easy. You will need detergents and softeners. But, you also need a hamper, drying rack, and hangers. Between you and a roommate, you can budget an ironing board and electric iron. Wherever your store your ironing board, you may also have a first-aid kit, flashlight, tool kit, and a portable safe for valuables.

Start at home

There is much you need for your college experience that you already have at home. You have prescription medicines, favorite pillows, stuffed animals (we won't tell anyone if you bring them!), family pictures, hair dryers, and more. You may already have the sheets and towels, alarm clock and music player, lamps and cabling you need.

You and your parents can build a budget by shopping at IKEA, PB Teen, Bed Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods,, and other stores online. But, you can build your understanding of what you really need and what your college is ready to offer with the help of the College Planning Center of Rhode Island.  

Topics: college dorm room

Figuring Out How Much to Borrow for College

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 28, 2014 4:00:00 PM

The cost of college tuition has taken a drastic turn upwards in the past few decades, increasing the amount that most students will have to borrow for college. While there is nothing wrong with taking on some student loan debt as long as it is done responsibly, it is important to be aware of how much you will be making straight out of college, and how much per month you will be paying back on your student loans.

What are your career plans? 

If you do not know exactly what you want to major in or pursue as a career your first year of college, it might be best to err on the side of caution and not take out too much in the way of loans to begin with, especially if you have any reason to believe you may go into a field that typically pays lower wages. General education classes your first year is a great way to feel out what you like and what you don't like, hopefully leading you to make a decision about what you'd like to major in by your second year.


Once you have an idea of what you'd like to do after college, and what you want your major to be, you can start taking a look at some hard numbers to help determine how much you will need to borrow in order to pay your tuition and graduate. Professions that have higher starting salaries can allow you to borrow more money in order to get your degree as opposed to those with smaller starting salaries.

As a general rule, you probably don't want to borrow any more than 90-100% of what your expected starting salary will be once you graduate. By keeping your total amount of money that you will borrow for college under this number, you are keeping your monthly payments low enough that you should be able to afford them on your salary. The payments will be even easier to make the longer you are out of college since you will hopefully be getting promotions and raises which will make the percentage of each paycheck going towards student loan repayments smaller.

If you do have an idea what you'd like to do as soon as you start school, great! Knowing an approximate starting salary for your desired job will help you make a decision about student loans before you even step foot in the classroom (Calculate your earnings and max borrowing for all years here). When you know what your starting salary should be before starting, you can borrow for college keeping that number in the back of your head. 

In addition to tuition, you will also want to be able to have enough money for room and board, which can sometimes come close to the amount of tuition you pay directly to the school every year. On-campus living can be surprisingly expensive, with your dorm room being pretty comparable in price to an off-campus apartment, and your dining plan will probably not be cheap either. Moving off campus and preparing your own meals may save you a little bit of money, but you will then have increased living expenses in the form of utilities and transportation to campus.

While the majority of students should be able to get under the 90-100% borrowing suggestion, you can help yourself out by getting even a part time job or paid internship during you first year or two of college. This will reduce the amount of money you need to borrow for college, and give you valuable work experience that could help you land a job in the future.

Anyone going into, or already in college, should do some research into how much they can expect to make their first year. This is the best baseline to work with to determine how much you should be borrowing for college, and it can help give you a realistic estimate of what you need to do to become financially secure after you graduate. Start your research here

Topics: student loans, borrowing for college

Last-minute saving for college

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 24, 2014 10:33:41 AM

In the ideal situation, saving for your child’s college expenses and tuition began when they were quite young and has built up over the years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way for a variety of reasons. So what to do now that your child is entering their junior or senior year and you don’t have enough to send them to college?

Don’t panic, there are still methods you can use to help them afford the college experience. Your child hasn’t taken college level Economics 101 yet, but she will soon learn there are two ways to increase your liquid money: either bring in more money, or reduce your expenses.

Adding Extra IncomeiStock_000018247569Small

Your student should apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. Unfortunately, most students don't qualify for a full scholarship. Now is the time to knuckle down and figure out a few ways to save a substantial amount of money in a short time period to avoid the dreaded choice of your child taking a year off from school to work before going to university or borrowing outside of your means.

Some people may have the option of either taking a second job in the evening or working overtime hours at their current job. This is perhaps the simplest, although not the easiest, way to bring in extra money quickly for the short term. A more valid option would be if the parents are together and one works as a homemaker that the stay at home parent take on a part time job to increase the family’s cash flow.

To deal with the added stress of the long hours, you just have to remind yourself that it’s only a temporary situation. Don’t look back at what you could have done to prepare better; instead focus on how this is in the best interest for providing your child the tools she needs to approach life as an adult successfully.

Of course, this is assuming your child is working as well. School may be her full time job, but she can work an age appropriate part time job on the weekend or perhaps an afternoon or early evening during the week. This can be a great opportunity to teach her what she doesn’t learn at school about how to responsibly manage her own money as you set rules about what she will be expected to pay for once she starts higher education.

Reducing the Costs of College Expenses

Taking AP or early enrollment classes for early college credit can shorten the length of time spent at college. Over the Junior and Senior high school years a student can usually take enough college level classes to eliminate a semester. Consider that although it varies depending on degree, a typical college career degree takes 8 semesters to attain, so it’s a quick way to cut 12.5% of the total costs from your budget.

Attending a local community college and taking transfer courses is another way to eliminate expenses. Not only is the college less expensive, but in many cases the student can eliminate the additional expense of living on her own in either a dormitory or apartment. This plan does eliminate the social aspect of college life to some extent, but that sacrifice is a much better option than simply not attending. This option further allows the student to continue working at her part time job from high school, bringing in her own money to help with the expenses and begin her own savings.

Some people may have an acceptable university close enough that their child can attend while still living at home. Again, part of the college experience is that your child becomes an adult, living on her own and managing school and work with her social life, but again, it’s a better option than not attending. Just remember, if you and your child decide on this plan, she is still a young adult and needs to start learning how to behave as one. She deserves a bit of freedom from the rules and curfews of high school. This is the age when many children move out of the house, eliminating any parental rules concerning their lifestyle, and they turn out to be just fine as adults.


In this day and age it is essential to attend college to assure a good, consistent career. College is not the cliché of going off to party for a few years before joining the work force. It provides the skills needed to pursue a successful adult life. By all means, encourage your child to go and help her with college expenses however you can but remember, pay what you can with "free money" such as grants and scholarships, borrow responsibly and only if you have too, and have fun!

Topics: paying for college, saving for college

5 Reasons to Save Summer Earnings

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 2, 2014 2:21:00 PM

If you are a high school or college student, you may be tempted to blow your summer earnings on tasty meals out, trips to the amusement park, or a new wardrobe - but there are many good reasons that you should be paying yourself first before you spend your income. 

Trust me, I get your temptation to take home that beaded mini or a new set of hubcaps! I did plenty of spending and little saving when I was in high school and college and, believe me, I had little to show for it in the end. After graduation, I was left with a big credit card bill and no safety pad. This was not an ideal way to start out life on my own.

Learn from my mistakes and remember these 5 top reasons to save every time you get paid and each time you are thinking about pulling out your wallet. 

1. Reason #1: You will graduate with less debt. 

The average student graduates from college these days with over $29,000 in student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. If you are going to school in Rhode Island, that figure is more like $31,000. You can easily be one of the students that brings that average down, but it takes some careful planning and serious will power. Just put a little aside each paycheck before you spend a dime. 

2. Reason #2: You will thank yourself later. Credit_Card_iStock_000019484812Web

Have you ever heard the saying, "live like a college student now so you don't have to later?" Not a lot of students really get excited about taking that advice, but you should! Would you rather be eating Ramen Noodles now or when you are done with school? 

3. Reason #3: You're going to want get rid of that sweater next year anyway. 

"But I neeeeeeed it!" There are lots of expensive (and even not-so-expensive) things that you like now and  feel like you need that you could care less about in 6 months or a year. Plan your purchases very carefully, don't make impulse buys, and ask yourself, "will I really still want this in a year, a month, or even next week?!?!?" If the answer is no, or even worse, if you are going to have to pull out your credit card to pay for it, simply walk away. I repeat, walk. away. 

4. Reason #4: Books are not cheap. 

Yes, you can get used books. And yes, you can buy some online. But college text books are still not cheap. When I was in college (and that was more than ten years ago, to date myself a bit), I would regularly spend $500 or more a semester on books, reading packets and other college supplies. Remember that. If you save your summer earnings, it will still hurt to spend this much on books, but at least you won't have to swipe your credit card to pay for them! 

5. Reason #5: Savings grow. 

Unlike borrowing, where you pay interest back on your puchases (Yes, that $30 meal could cost you $70 after you get around to paying it back!) savings actually earn you cash. While the APY (Annual Percentage Yield) isn't super high these days on most standard savings account, it is still better than nothing. Look for an account with a good interest rate, or consider saving your cash in a certificate of deposit or mutual fund if you won't need it right away and you can find a good yield. Put a little aside each time you get paid and watch it grow!


For free helping decided on where to go to school - or how to pay for it - make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of Rhode Island

Discerning Differences: Private Student Loans, Federal Student Loans and State-based Student Loans

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jun 17, 2014 2:03:27 PM

If you are looking to borrow for college, you may have heard about federal, private, and state-based student loans. But what is the difference between these loan types and which ones are the right ones for you and your family? 

Federal Student Loans

There are several types of federal education loans that can help your family pay for college. Federal education loans fall into two categories: student loans and parent loans.

Federal Student Loans

When you borrow a federal loan, your lender is the US Department of Education. Students are advised to use up their Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (also offen referred to as "Stafford" loans) before seeking a loan elsewhere. These loans carry a low fixed interest rate (currently, they are set at 4.66% for undergrads) and have an array of flexible repayment options to help new grads afford their monthly loan payments - or delay their payments, if necessary. To apply for one of these loans or for the Federal Perkins Loan, another low fixed rate federal student loan which is awarded through the school financial aid office, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. LoanApplication_iStock_000019962865Small

Federal Parent Loans

There is also a federal college loan option for parents, called the Federal PLUS Loan. These loans do offer some repayment flexibility and deferment options although not quite as much as the Stafford or Perkins loans, but they also carry a higher interest rate than the federal student loan options.

Currently, the Federal PLUS Loan rate is set at 7.21% with a 4.288% origination fee.  

You can get more information on federal education loan programs at

State-based Student Loans

State-based student loans vary from lender to lender depending on the state in which you are borrowing. Not all states have a state-based student loan program, but these programs are typically available to students who are either a resident of the state or are going to a school in the state. These loans are often offered with low fixed interest rates and low or no fees. They are worth looking into if you think your student will need to borrow beyond the federal Stafford and Perkins loan limits.

Are you a resident of or going to school in one of the below Northeastern states? Check out the state-based student loan options. 

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are another alternative to the federal PLUS loans. Private student loans usually offer credit-based pricing and variable rates which means you don't necessarily know what rate you will pay on your loan until you apply. Variable rate loans may seem enticing right now as markets rates hover at historical lows. But you must assess whether or not you will be able to afford a higher monthly payment if rates increase prior to paying off your loan. Most variable rate loans are based off of Prime or LIBOR. Clicking these links will show you how Prime and LIBOR have changed over time.   

Fixed rate private loan programs are more rare and typically also have credit-based pricing. Unless you have some of the best credit out there, keep in mind you may not qualify for that lowest advertised rate. 

Comparing Student Loans

College is an enormous financial commitment, and loans can no doubt add to your costs. Before borrowing, make sure you have completed the FAFSA and fully explored your eligibility for grants and scholarships. Also, pay what you can from your salary and savings before taking on any debt. 

If you do decide you need to borrow, make sure you understand how much the loan will really cost you. What you repay is not only the amount you borrow, but also interest and fees. If you borrow a state-based or private student loan, you will receive a set of disclosures at the time of application that will give you information on all rates, fees and will display the total cost of the loan. Federal student loans are not subject to the same disclosure requirements but you can get an idea of your total costs by comparing rates and fees, as well as looking at your final loan disclosures. Also be sure to understand all of the loan benefits, from deferment to income-based repayment, to loan forgivenss before committing to any loan. 

Topics: student loans

5 Things to Do in RI the Summer Before College

Posted by Lindie Johnson

May 27, 2014 1:54:50 PM

High school seniors are surely breathing a sign of relief at this point, with college applications behind them and college life in the horizon. For students that are planning to live on a college campus, this summer is often a last hoorah in their hometown. Students can follow this guide to help make the most out of their last summer at home. 

1. Get a job!

Okay, so this may not be the most exciting way for a student to spend their last summer before college, but hear us out. Getting a job, and more importantly saving earnings from that job, can significantly reduce student debt. A couple thousand dollars can go a long way in covering the cost of college books and everyday living expenses. 

2. Sink your toes in the sand.

Now that we got that out of the way, it's time to have some fun. Rhode Island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the US. Students should take advantage of them while they are here and have free time. Check out GoLocal's 10 Best Beaches in RI

3. Hit a home run.

What would summer in Rhode Island be without watching a Pawsox game? Go in early July to catch a fantastic fireworks display after the game. Buy tickets here. 

4. Plan for some island time. 


Get together a group of high school friends or your family and (with parent approval, of course), take a day trip to Block Island. The Block Island Ferry offer daily trips with round trips rates around $26 from Point Judith. Take a walk through Mohegan Bluffs and grab some delicious eats at the Poor People's Pub

5. Light up your night. 

Waterfire is one of the biggest cultural events in the US, and here it is hosted in tiny little Rhode Island. Maybe you've never been before, or maybe you go on a weekly basis. Either way, it is a great way to spend a Saturday night. Start at Harry's Burger Bar for some sliders and walk through downtown, taking in all of the greatness. 

Just remember, no matter where you are going to college, and now matter how you spend your last summer as a high school student, make it a relaxing and memorable one!

Need some help trying to figure out how you will pay the tuition bill? Contact the College Planning Center of Rhode Island.

Need to learn more about student loans? 



Topics: college planning

Comparing College Costs: The Net Price Calculator

Posted by Lindie Johnson

May 13, 2014 11:34:19 AM

Comparing the “sticker price” of various colleges may seem like a reasonable first step to determining what your family can afford for college costs. But if you are like many families in the Ocean State, you are probably going to be paying less than the sticker price when all is said and done. Before you make yourself crazy searching on websites trying to figure college and university sticker prices - which may not mean much for your family in the long run - consider using each college’s Net Price Calculator. 107077-resized-600

The Net Price Calculator measures your family's financial ability to pay for college and uses other information to estimate the amount of grants, scholarships, and other financial aid you could potentially receive. Your "net price" is the difference between the amount of financial assistance you receive from the school, federal government and state - and the total cost of attendance at that school.

All schools are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website. It’s often housed on the school financial aid site, but if you can’t locate it, search for “Net Price Calculator” in the search box of the college website.   

Before you sit down to examine Net Price Calculators at different schools, there are some things that you will need to have handy.  Start with your most recent tax return for both you and the student.  W-2’s may be needed if you file a joint return. Depending on the school, it may be handy to know your child’s CSS profile user name and password, but you will also have the opportunity to sign in as a guest.

The Net Price Calculator is a valuable tool in the college shopping process. We recommend you start using it to narrow down your college list, whether the student is in 10th or 12th grade.

Also, remember to sit down with your child before their junior year in high school - if you haven’t already - and give them a realistic idea of what money you are able to contribute towards college.  Make clear statements about your financial goals and use all the resources available to find a school that meets all of your family’s needs.

Need some assistance narrowing down your options? Make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI.

Topics: financial aid