The online availability of the early FAFSA in October of 2016 marked the beginning of a new approach to college admissions. The purpose of the change is to bring the college financial aid timeframe more in line with the college acceptance process so that students and parents will have a better opportunity to take cost into consideration as they narrow down their college choices.
Although the timeframe might be a little more compressed, the basic steps involved in college financial planning have not changed. There are many good resources, such as Discover Student Loans for example, which can help parents and students navigate this sometimes confusing process. Here are a few insights that might be of help as you try to make your college choice:
• Learn about financial aid: Spend some time getting to know the terminology, and try to understand what all of those abbreviations mean. It’s easy to get lost in a swirl of acronyms, which might lead you to give up when that is the last thing you should do. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you might be surprised at how much more confident you feel after reading a few background articles.
• Know the process: Although there are several layers in each step, your basic actions pretty much follow one after the other – file the FAFSA, review the SAR, compare financial aid packages, maximize grants and scholarships, and compare federal and private student loans.
• Understand the costs and benefits: Of course there are going to be costs involved in attending college, and sometimes these costs can be steep. But making this investment now can also lead to hefty payoffs in future income and lifestyle options. Put together a complete budget of what it will cost to attend college for four or five years, and then look at a comparison of college degrees to determine just how good your investment is.
• Borrow wisely: There is nothing wrong with borrowing money through federal and private student loans to achieve your college dream, but don’t be foolish about it. Borrow only what you need, maximize federal student loans first, and use student loan calculators to estimate costs before you ever borrow that first dollar.
Even though it can be a financial challenge, most parents still believe that sending a child to college is well worth the investment they are making. But that doesn’t mean you should take the process lightly. Plan your approach, and if you need more information on college financial aid or the early FAFSA, schedule a free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
Get more information on financial aid in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro – it makes a great holiday gift! You’ll find information on everything from college financial planning and filling out the FAFSA, to searching for scholarships and comparing student loan options. Order it now, and get the information you need to successfully navigate the financial aid journey.