This year has been a topsy-turvy one in the world of financial aid. The Department of Education came out with the early FAFSA in October, which left parents, students and schools trying to figure out their new approach ever since. Anecdotal evidence reveals that the process is going well – parents and students are completing the FAFSA at a healthy pace, and many schools are reporting that they will be able to make their financial aid offers much earlier this year. If you’re the parent of a high school or college student, you’ll want to keep these end-of-year financial aid tips in mind:
• Don’t wait to file the FAFSA: Previously, there were many logistical reasons to delay filing the FAFSA, usually involving the completion of federal income tax forms. With the introduction of the prior-prior year concept, that barrier is no longer in place. There really is no good reason to delay, and many good reasons to file as soon as possible. This applies to anyone who will be in college during the 2017-18 academic year, including returning college students.
• Review all financial aid offers: Unless you are whole-heartedly committed to one particular college, it is best to wait until you have offers from all schools before making a final decision. This will allow you to compare costs more equally across the board, and decide based on monetary and intangible factors about each school.
• Borrow student loans wisely: Part of the problem in the current student loan “crisis” is that students borrowed more money than they really needed and spent it unwisely, without any real thought as to the consequences of having to pay it back in four or five years. If you need to borrow money for college, you should first turn to federal student loans and then make judicious use of private student loans. Companies like Discover Student Loans, for example, that offer zero fees, great rates, and rewards for good grades can help provide the extra financing boost you need without all the hassle.
• High school juniors need to pay attention: The change in timeline might have come as a surprise to this year’s high school seniors, but should be no shock to their younger colleagues. Current high school juniors need to take stock of what their elder cohorts had to do in the fall, and adjust their plans accordingly so they will have time to visit college campuses, take the necessary tests, narrow the college list, apply, and complete the FAFSA next fall.
For more information on how the changes in financial aid can affect your college application and admissions calendar, schedule a free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
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