Although we all know that “old acquaintance” should never be forgot, we usually take time at the beginning of the year to list out other things we want to remember, too. Many times, these resolutions fall on the side of health or money, and just as often they fall by the side of the road as we get caught up with our everyday activities. For parents of high school seniors and college students, this is also the time of year when they get caught up in completing the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The FAFSA is a great start to getting the money you need to help finance a college education, but that isn’t the only thing you’ll want to keep in mind about paying for college. Here are some financial aid resolutions for 2016 you’ll definitely want to make AND keep:
• “I will finish the FAFSA early.” There are almost as many excuses for not getting the FAFSA done as there are resolutions that get broken. But you’re only hurting yourself and your student by giving in to these self-imposed delaying tactics. Some financial aid is granted on a time-sensitive basis so you might miss out simply by not applying. There is also the chance that you will make some type of error, which could result in delays while you correct it. That delay might make you miss an important state or college financial aid deadline.
• “I will submit a FAFSA.” There are a variety of excuses parents and students rely on so they don’t even have to attempt to complete the FAFSA. They say they earn too much or too little, believe it’s too difficult to apply, or don’t think their child will qualify for some other reason. Unless you are a financial aid expert and are sure of your financial situation, the best approach is always to complete an application. There are many types of financial aid, and you will never know for sure unless you file.
• “I will compare financial aid offers.” Don’t make the choice about which college to attend based solely on emotional factors. Many families are pressed beyond their financial means because they are trying to pay for a college their student “really, really wants to attend” when another choice might have been more cost-effective.
• “I will learn about student loans before borrowing.” Many students make the mistake of waiting until their student loans come due to begin learning about what is involved. By then it is often too late to make informed decisions. Learn about the difference between federal and private student loans now, and calculate whether you will be able to repay them after graduation.
Most of all, resolve to keep up with financial aid. There are big changes happening in 2016, not the least of which is that there will be another FAFSA in October. Failure to keep up with these changes could result in some rather unpleasant surprises later this year.