Walk onto any university campus and you’ll find two kinds of students.The first student barely has time to fully devote themselves to studying. They’re too worried about filling the holes in their financial aid award. While their friends are sitting at home writing papers and studying for exams, they’re serving fries in a restaurant to pay rent. Instead of buying books and getting a head start on the next week’s reading, they’re on the wait list at the library and praying that the book will be returned on time. These students hardly get to enjoy the college experience. And they aren’t necessarily the children of low-income families. They’re just as likely to have parents who are middle or even top earners.
The second type of student barely ever worries about their financial aid package. It’s just not a major issue. Their parents can easily finance the tuition bills. If they work, it’s just to top off the parental contribution or to give themselves an independent income. The parents’ lifestyles haven’t been changed by their student’s decision to go to college. This student has all the time and focus they need to graduate in four years. The parents of these students aren’t necessarily millionaires–they’re just more informed about the financial aid system. They figured out what they had to do get all the financial help they were entitled to. While their children were finishing high school, they were meeting with a college planning advisor and preparing properly for the college process.
So what do you have to do NOW to get a
fantastic financial aid award?
1. Start Preparing Your Finances
It’s a well-known fact that arranging your finances in a way that minimizes your tax bills can have a beneficial payoff. Everyone does it. How you arrange your finances this year, though, won’t just affect your tax bill. It will also influence your college tuition bill. Soon, Senior families are going to have to complete and submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That form needs to be ready as soon as the new year begins. Financial aid is distributed on a first come, first serve basis. The most important thing you can do when planning for college is to be proactive. Working ahead of the game can reap big rewards. Especially if you have a plan to maximize a financial aid award.
2. Start Preparing Your Student
Your child’s first responsibility is preparing for college. They need to research schools they’re interested in applying to. Weekends should be spent at college fairs, picking up application forms, and identifying potential scholarships. Basically, they need to put themselves in a position where they can make an informed decision. Your child might not be too happy about spending their weekends with this “homework”. But, starting on this process before their Junior year will only make it easier once school work, activities, and socializing are included. In order for your child to be able to have a wide range of college opportunities, you must work together.
3. Start Preparing for Exams
Your child’s second responsibility is to make good grades. This will open the opportunity for applying and being admitted to better schools. It will also give them access to healthier financial award packages. Schools have an interest in attracting the best-performing students. To encourage these students to apply to their school, colleges usually give the best aid packages to the top 25 percent in the freshman class or applicants with the highest SAT/ACT scores.
Does your student need help increasing their SAT/ACT scores? There are plenty of options, including courses and individual tutoring to assist. If this strategy results in higher test scores and a better aid package it will easily pay for itself. Does your child already have good grades and tests well? They should consider taking some college level courses in their Junior or Senior years of high school. Students can fulfill this with AP classes or a duel enrollment program. College admissions offices love to see applicants who already excel in high-level courses.
4. Start Gathering Information
Getting through the college financial aid process and coming out with all the money you’re entitled to is not easy. You can certainly read up about student aid. The do-it-yourself books will tell you about the various forms to fill out, the types of loans you can take out, and the problems you can expect. But, these books can’t tell you how to pay for what the award package won’t cover. They can’t do this because every family is different.
If you’re worried about your ability to qualify for a financial aid award then you need to speak to a specialist. Financial aid doesn’t go just to the neediest, and it certainly doesn’t go to the luckiest. It goes to the wisest and those that laid a plan out in advance. Only certain type of advisors can assist with strategies from applying to the right schools, to filing financial paperwork, to creating a Financial Blueprint. And all directed specially to your student’s and family’s needs.
5. Start Talking to A Professional
Smart families don’t just read books about the forms they need to submit or strategies they should implement. They know that those books will only tell them what they should know, not how they should implement them. And the books certainly won’t explain how to prepare your finances so that they get maximum aid. You want to ensure that your plan is formulated to be efficient and realistic. This is where speaking with an experienced advisor can really make a difference. The reality is, financial aid could be obtainable for your family. But, how will you know it has been maximized until every resource is exhausted? Finding the right advisor can be tough, but Peachtree College Planning has a blog to help with that, too! Read Tips for Choosing a College Planner.