“Get A Fantastic Financial Aid Award!
Five Things You Must Do Right Now To
Make Sure You Get Every Penny You
Week 3 of 12
Walk into any university dorm and you’ll find two kinds of students.
The first type of student barely has a dime to his name. While their friends are sitting at home writing papers and studying for exams, they’re serving fries in a restaurant to pay the rent. Instead of buying books and getting a head start on the next week’s reading, they’re on the waiting list at the library and praying that the book they need will be returned on time. Instead of thinking about nothing but their major and the grades they need for grad school, they’re worrying about whether their parents will be able to pay the next semester’s tuition fees. These students aren’t necessarily the children of low-income families. They’re just as likely to have parents who are middle class or even top earners.
The second type of student barely ever thinks about money. It’s just not a major issue. Their parents can easily finance the tuition bills and if they choose to work, it’s just to top off the parental contribution or to give themselves an independent income. Their parents’ lifestyles haven’t been changed by their decision to go to college and they have all the time and focus they need to get the kind of grades it takes to quickly land a high-paying job.
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, and while their children were finishing high school, they were meeting with a certified college funding expert and preparing properly for the college process.
This is the time to take advantage of a FREE Diagnostic Evaluation and take the steps you need to make sure that your child doesn’t have to worry about money while he or she studies — and neither do you.
Here are the five things you must do right now:
Step 1. Start Preparing Your Finances
Everyone knows that it pays to arrange their finances in a way that minimizes their tax bills. Everyone does it. CPA’s are experts at it and there’s nothing wrong with doing it. How you arrange your finances this year though won’t just affect your tax bill, it will also influence your college tuition bill. And you have to do it now.
Soon, you’re going to have to complete and submit your 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 served basis. Procrastinate and you can quickly find yourself scraping an empty pot.
On your FAFSA, you’ll have to include all of your financial details. You’ll have to declare your income, describe your assets and reveal your tax status. If it’s worth money, you’ll have to mention it. You will be able to make changes after you submit the form at the beginning of January but you definitely want to have it in as early as possible.
Step 2. Start Preparing Your Student
Your finances are your responsibility but your child has responsibilities of his or her own too. Meeting those responsibilities are important to making sure that you get the sort of financial aid that you deserve.
Your child’s first responsibility is to get educated. They need to learn about the schools to which they might want to apply. They should be heading to college fairs, picking up application forms and identifying potential scholarships. They need to put themselves in a position where they can make an informed decision.
Now, your child might not be too happy about spending their weekends in the library looking at college catalogs. However, doing the right work now could mean much less work later on… when they should be studying.
Even if your child won’t be paying a penny towards their own education, they still have a contribution to make. This is the time to make sure they are making that contribution.
Step 3. Start Preparing For The Exams
Your child’s second responsibility is to get good grades. That won’t just give them more options and the chance of going to better schools, it will also give them better award packages from the colleges. Schools have an interest in attracting the best-performing students.
These are the students who go on to get great jobs, earn lots of money, make a name for themselves and bring glory — and endowments — back to the university. To encourage those kinds of students to apply to their school, colleges usually give the best aid packages to the top 25 percent in the freshman class or to applicants with the highest SAT/ACT scores.
Hiring a private instructor or paying for exam courses should definitely be a consideration. Even though they will cost you some money now, if either of them result in higher grades and a better financial aid package they will easily pay for themselves many times over. There are plenty of SAT/ACT courses available and they’re worth considering.
If your child already has good grades, then they might also be able to take some collegelevel courses in the final year of high school. That will give them some cheap credits and let them graduate from college early, giving them a head start on their peers in the job market.
And your child’s last responsibility is to choose well. One way to increase the odds that they’ll get the awards that go to the smartest kids is to pick a school whose students have a lower average GPA and SAT/ACT score than their own. Their studying will be easier — and they’ll stand a great chance of winning a larger award.
Step 4. Start Learning
Getting through the college financial aid process and coming out with all the money you’re entitled to isn’t easy. You’re going to see a heap of forms and you’re going to have to answer all sorts of difficult questions.
What it all boils down to is this: the more you know — and the better you prepare — the more money you’ll get. 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 are most prepared.
You can certainly read up about student aid and there are plenty of books in the libraries and bookstores that can help you. They’ll tell you about the various forms you’ll have to fill out, the types of loans you can take out and the problems you can expect to meet.
But they can’t tell you everything and they certainly can’t tell you how you can pay what the award package won’t cover. They can’t tell you all that stuff because every family is different. It’s a bit like reading medical books to discover how your body works. If you’re worried you might be sick, you should still visit a doctor.
If you’re worried about college expenses — and everyone needs to be — you should speak to a specialist.
Step 5. Start Talking To A Professional
Smart families don’t just read books about the forms they need to submit. They know that those books will only tell them what they have to complete, not how they should complete them.
And the books certainly won’t explain how to prepare your finances so that they get maximum aid. One method for example, can actually enable parents to cover their children’s education without touching their lifestyle at all and do it all on a tax-favored basis. It doesn’t work for everyone but whether it works for you or not, you won’t read about this method in any of the college financial aid books.
If you’d like to learn more about this technique, or if you just want to get more information about the college process, call my office today at (908) 857-4200 and schedule a FREE Diagnostic Evaluation.
This is a great time to get ahead. Call my office today at (908) 857-4200.
Ian Welham, CCPS
Certified College Planning Specialist
Get valuable information and helpful tips on our blog:
Haven’t read earlier articles in the series?