6 Steps You MUST Take Now To Get All
The College Aid Help You Need!

Week 5 of 12

By the time you reach the end of the year, if you don’t have everything you need to qualify for college aid organized, arranged and ready to go… you’re in trouble.

Don’t panic (at least not too much). It’s still not too late. But remember, every January thousands of students across the country are sitting down with their application forms. Their parents are sitting with the financial aid forms while the colleges are sitting with a limited amount of awards ready to go out to the first qualified people who ask for them.

So What On Earth Are You Waiting For?

If your child plans to go to college next year, this is the time to pull out all the stops. Here are 6 steps that you must take before the year is out:

Step #1 – Choose Your Schools

The fact is, you should already have a good list of schools and colleges by now. That list should include the schools your child wishes to attend as well as those with the best aid packages.

Once you’ve got your list, try to see where your child fits in each incoming class.

In general, the schools like to give their very best awards to the top 25 percent of students in each year. That means that while you can certainly include a few “reach” schools, it also makes sense to ensure that at least one or two schools on your list are those in which your child will finish in the top quartile.

Those schools will be the most likely to hand out a large award to your student.

Summary: If you haven’t prepared your list of schools, there’s not a moment to lose. You need to do your research, find out which schools hand out the most money, discover how your child’s grades compare with the average student in each intake—and put together your list. Don’t delay.

Step #2 – list your “Priority Filing Deadlines” and the Forms that each school needs

Schools aren’t going to wait for all the applications to come in before they start handing out the cash. In fact, if you keep waiting, there’s a good chance that the pot will be empty before your forms finally do reach the schools.

It’s crucial that you know what the deadline is for each school, and which forms they need. State colleges for example will want the FAFSA, which cannot be submitted before January 1 of your student’s senior year. Private schools, and some state schools, may also want a CSS Financial Aid PROFILE. Deadlines for the CSS Profile can vary from school to school!

Summary: Make sure you know which schools need which forms—and when!

Step #3 – Figure out your income and asset strategies BEFORE you start filling out your Financial Aid Forms

How much you have to pay over the next few years will depend to a large extent on how you arrange your assets now. Sure, your situation might change. House prices could drop, interest rates could rise and your business could enter a difficult period. You can certainly appeal the level of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the financial aid officer at your child’s school, but it’s much easier to get your finances arranged now—before you fill in any financial aid forms.

Determine how you should place a value on your home and property; decide whether you should keep assets in your child’s name, your name or someone else’s name. Decide too, how you should arrange your assets and which assets should be spent down to reduce your financial contribution to your child’s education. And you should do all this before you start completing the forms.

Figuring out how to arrange your assets isn’t easy. But it is crucial—and it’s crucial to do it well, and at the right time.

Summary: Before you even begin to complete your financial aid forms, sit with a Certified College Funding Representative to build your unique personal Customized College Funding Solution. If your child is a senior, you don’t have much time now, so if you need help figuring out your finances, call our office today at (908) 857-4200 to arrange a FREE Diagnostic Evaluation. If your child is a junior, remember you will be entering your base financial year on January 1st!

Step #4 – Get the details right!

You have a lot of forms to complete in the next month. Many of those forms will be asking you the same questions over and over again—often those questions will be asked by the same school.

That’s not a mistake, and it’s not a plot by the school to annoy you. It is a system used by the school to make sure that your answers are always accurate, correct and consistent. The schools’ computers are programmed to check the information you provide across all the forms to make sure that the details are always the same.

One slip-up, one inconsistency, and your application will get sent straight to the slow track while the forms without problems will pick up the awards.

Summary: Keep copies of all the forms you submit so that you can check the details as you complete others.

Step #5 – Take a good look at the price of private schools

Most parents have a pretty good idea of the amount they wish—or are able—to spend on their children’s education. And for many parents that amount cuts out just about all the private schools with their huge tuition fees.

That’s a huge mistake.

The fact is, when you’re looking for large financial aid awards, one of the first places you should look is private schools. These are exactly the places that tend to have the most generous benefactors and the wealthiest alumni—the kind of people who like to pick up tax credits by setting up scholarships and providing grants to talented students or those from lower income families.

And the best thing is, these kinds of aid packages are usually made up largely of “free” money, the type you never have to pay back.

Many parents will actually find that it costs more to send their child to a state school—and fill in the gaps left by public funding cuts—than to send him or her to a private school with its large reservoirs of private aid awards.

Summary: Don’t rule out a school simply because the price tag on the tuition looks a little high. You might well find that there are more ways to meet that price than you think.

Step #6 – Look beyond need-based aid

Clearly, not everyone is going to be able to pick up need-based aid. For high-income families in particular, very little is likely to be available, even after arranging assets and preparing financial documents in the best way possible.

But just because someone has a high income doesn’t mean that coughing up an extra $20,000 or $30,000 each year per child is going to be easy. Most people—high earners included—are living pretty much up to their means and with various taxes taking up to 50 percent of incomes you’ll have to earn an extra $40,000 or $60,000 to fund that annual tuition bill.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to tell the kids they can’t go to school. With careful planning, you can still create the income you need to pay for your children’s tuition and fees. For example, one very effective strategy is to use the equity in your home. Unlike bank loans, home equity loans may be tax-deductible which means you can fund college on a tax-favored basis. Not all home equity loan programs are the same though, and this system won’t work for everyone, but if it will work for you, you’ll be able to meet those huge demands without sacrificing your retirement or your standard of living.

You should certainly take the time to discuss your specific situation with a Certified College Funding Representative who can help you find the best financial program for your family. You’ll save time and you’ll save money.

Please feel free to contact my office at (908) 857-4200.

This year will come to a close and the next one will see your child leave high school and start a new life in a new environment. Take the time now to make sure your child gets the best education that your money can buy.

Until next week…

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

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