It has been a busy year so far. Now that the weather is calming down, it’s time for high school seniors and their parents to get to the serious business of figuring out how to pay for college. Some parents already have savings accounts or 529 plans, but most have to deal with the intricacies of the college financial aid process.
Many find it overwhelming and feel they are not capable, but those with patience and perseverance who find their way through all the mazes come out on the other side with a substantial reward – their child gets to attend the best possible college with the least possible financial impact on the family or the student’s future. To help you find your way to this most desirable outcome, here are five tips for getting the financial aid you deserve:
1. Fill Out The FAFSA Correctly: Failure to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) correctly is perhaps the largest source of missed opportunity in the financial aid world. Although there is over $150 billion available in grants, work-study funds, and low-interest loans, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that “the majority of people fill out the FAFSA in such a way that they do not receive all of the aid they are eligible for.”
2. Meet or Beat Your Deadlines: Many parents are surprised to find that some colleges have FAFSA deadlines that fall very early in February. Colleges need time to review the applications and make their decisions so they can make timely offers to interested students. In addition, some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is always best to get your FAFSA in as soon as possible.
3. Search Diligently for Scholarships: Scholarships are possibly the most underrated of all financial aid options, but it can be well worth the time to research opportunities if your child is awarded a substantial amount of scholarship money.
4. Compare College Offers: Once you start receiving financial aid packets from colleges you can calculate what your actual costs of attendance will be. If you don’t have offers from all of your selected colleges yet, use the net price calculator on each college’s website to determine your estimated expenses. Sometimes the college that appears to be the most expensive can be the most affordable once the financial aid package is taken into consideration.
5. Seek Out Professional Advice: Be sure you have tapped into all of your available financial aid resources. Even if you have already filed your FAFSA it may be possible to submit supplemental information if your financial circumstances have changed.
Don’t miss out on getting the financial aid you deserve. Set up an appointment now for a free financial aid strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA).