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How to Finish Preparing for College Attendance: Tips to Help Pay for School

How to finish preparing for college attendance: tips to help your student pay for college from financial aid advisor Jodi Okun
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For many families of high school seniors, the college acceptance process can feel tiring – and long. It’s not surprising! The process begins before senior year even starts, with college visits and lists being made. Next, it’s filing the actual application and FAFSA (which has been its own experience this year!), and then finally in the spring, letters begin to arrive. As acceptance letters and financial aid offers arrive, the reality of all of that hard work is sitting in your hands… and then there’s still one big decision to make: where is your student going to attend college? After reviewing all of the offers and deciding where to go, it can feel like there’s not much left to do.

But, there’s a few things you and your student should be doing between acceptance to college and attendance in the fall:

Review your financial aid offers and out-of-pocket expenses: 

If your student has not committed to a specific college with an early decision application, make sure you spend the time necessary to review and understand the various financial aid offers you received. This is a great time to review the numbers of how many students finish the process, if the package is for all 4 years, and what it looks like if not. Don’t forget to re-calculate and review out-of-pocket expenses, like travel home or daily living to determine what your student might be spending. 

Calculate your cash flow obligations:

Most colleges will provide a schedule of payments for their costs, but be sure to take into consideration your other expenses as well. While paying for college is new to your budget, your other expenses will still exist. Moving to campus also comes with additional financial costs, like what you need to set up the dorm room, or even a new car payment. Make sure you have enough money available to cover everything.

Determine if you need loans: 

If you cannot meet all of your cash flow needs, then you might have to borrow money through federal or private student loans. Learn about your rights and responsibilities, and make sure you research your options completely before signing on the dotted line. I also recommend sitting down and discussing frankly who will be paying for what post graduation. Make sure both the family and student understands their part of the commitment of loans. 

Look for scholarships: 

Keep looking for scholarships that might help you reduce your out-of-pocket expenditures. Locating scholarships means finding free money – money that your student (or you) do not have to pay back. Don’t forget to look for scholarships each year that your student is in school. It’s not a one and done deal – and this money can help cover budget gaps! 

Create a budget:

Speaking of budgets…. work with your student to develop a budget for college. This budget should outline exactly how much money you are willing to provide to cover college and daily expenses. If your child thinks more money will be needed, talk about summer or campus employment opportunities. Lots of college students work while studying but it’s important to be realistic about what your student can handle. 

When it comes to paying for college, there never really is a “down” time. While there’s a lot of time and energy involved in the college application process, it’s worth it! As the spring hits and your family begins to settle into the idea of what’s happening the next four years, take the time to review finances together and make a plan so once move-in day arrives, everyone feels confident about paying for college! 

More about Jodi and College Financial Aid Advisors

Jodi is a FAFSA financial advisor who helps with the financial aid process to help families of college students maximize their financial aid. From completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options, Jodi is a fantastic resource when it comes to student financial aid. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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