5 Steps You Must Take Now To
Give Your Child A Great
Financial Aid Award!

Week 11 of 12

There are two kinds of students. There are the ones who never seem to have enough cash, whose parents have to struggle to find each dime for tuition fees, the students that have to work every weekend instead of studying—just to make sure that they have enough money to pay the rent and buy books. Those students are just as likely to be children of middle-class and top-earning parents as the offspring of low-income families.

And then there are the students for whom money is never an issue. Their parents can easily meet the mammoth annual tuition fees, their family’s standard of living doesn’t take a hit from the extra expenses and they enjoy all the benefits of scholarships and grants that let them study and play all weekend. These students often breeze through their exams and walk right into a top-paying job as soon as they graduate.

Students like these aren’t necessarily the children of super-rich families; they’re the children of smart families. Their parents made sure that in their last year of high school, they did everything they could to pick up all the financial aid that they were entitled to. With the new school year starting right now, there’s no time to waste. These are the 5 steps you must take this year to make sure that your child is the second type of student, not the first—and that you don’t have to struggle to pay for his or her education.

1. Arrange Your Taxes Early

Each year, you probably arrange your taxes to ensure that you don’t pay a penny more of your hard-earned cash to Uncle Sam than you need to.

This year, you’re going to have to do exactly the same thing to ensure that the amount of money the colleges expect you to pay from your own pocket is as low as possible. And you need to do it quickly.

At the end of the year, you’ll need to have your Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ready for mailing. The sooner you can submit after the beginning of January, the better. When it comes to financial aid, it’s first come, first served!

The FAFSA will list all your financial information: your income, your assets, your investments, your tax status… you name it, you have to declare it. You won’t have to put in the final figures in January—you will be able to adjust them later if you need to. Estimate if you have to, just get the form submitted right away.

2. Organize Your Student Early

Your child can’t help you prepare your taxes but he or she can help pick up a great financial aid award that benefits the entire family.

The first thing your child needs to do is research. You should encourage them to spend a few hours of the weekend learning about different schools, attending college fairs, collecting application forms and making a note of any scholarships that they can apply for.

Obviously, that might not be the way most teenagers will want to spend their Saturday afternoons, but it’s vital to get the groundwork in now.

Your children do have a role to play in financing their education, even if they don’t have to dig into their own pockets to pay the fees. It’s up to you to make sure that they do their part by doing the research now.

3. Prepare For The Exams

The second way your child can begin pulling his or her weight right now is by hitting the books.

Colleges don’t necessarily hand out cash to those who need it most. They hand out cash to those who will help them the most.

How do students help colleges? By getting great grades and going on to win top jobs at leading corporations and research institutes. That means they have big salaries to support their alma mater and they improve the school’s reputation.

Schools help students who work the hardest and get the best grades. That’s why students in the top 25 percent of the incoming freshman class, or those with the best SAT/ACT scores, always get the best college funding packages.

It might be worth signing your child up for a private course to coach him/her through the SAT/ACT process. It might stretch your finances a bit today but it could lead to a generous Financial Aid Package from the university tomorrow. You could also suggest that your child take some college-level courses during his or her senior year. The university will credit these courses, possibly knocking thousands of dollars off the cost of tuition and putting your child in the job market ahead of his or her peers.

Another thing your child needs to do is to apply wisely. Most college prospectuses include the average GPA and SAT/ACT scores of the students they take. If you send your child to a school where their scores are already above average, you’ll make their studying a little easier—and increase the chances that the school will give them preferential financial aid.

4. Prepare Yourself

There’s no question that the financial aid process is difficult. There’s a library of forms to complete and questions to answer about every aspect of your financial life. Most parents start the process with no idea what they’re about to do or the best way to approach it all.

Those are the parents of the first group of students I talked about earlier. The bottom line is that the more you understand the financial aid process—and the better you prepare for it—the better your results will be.

The fact is, financial aid for students isn’t drawn out of a lottery and it isn’t awarded solely on the basis of income, with the lowest-income families getting the first dip in the pot. Those who know more—and do more—get more. It’s that simple.

If you browse through your local bookstore, you’ll find entire shelves of books about the financial aid process. They’ll tell you about the forms, the conditions of the various loans, who can apply for them and how much they’re worth. These books can be a useful tool to help you get started.

But no two families are the same. Reading a book about the law will tell you that if a truck driver runs over your foot, you might be able to sue; it won’t tell you how to sue. You’ll still need a lawyer.

5. Talk To A Pro

That’s why the smart families—the one’s who get the best funding packages—usually ask an expert to make sure that they don’t miss out.

The books about college funding only contain a tiny percentage of the information that you need. They’ll tell you what the forms are and what they contain, but they won’t tell you the best way that you should fill them out. Nor will they tell you how to arrange your finances in the most effective way possible. For example, we’ve found that many families can not only cover their children’s education, but they can actually do it in a way that doesn’t affect their standard of living—or the standard of living they’re hoping to enjoy in their retirement. To put in another way, there are specific financial strategies that you can use to fund your child’s education—and you won’t read about these in any college-funding book!

Would you like to learn how to send your child to the best college possible—and be able to afford it? Ask me to build you a personal College Funding Blueprint. It is guaranteed to improve cash flow during the college years. For details, call me at (908) 857-4200.

That’s it for this week. Until next week…

Best wishes,

Ian Welham, CCPS
Certified College Planning Specialist
(908) 857-4200
Email: Ian@CompleteCollegePlanningSolutions.com

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Haven’t read earlier articles in the series?

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Go to part 5

Go to part 4

Go to part 3

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