There are a few cases where knowing too much can be a bad thing but, more often than not, knowing too little will hurt you a lot more. This is especially true in the case of college financial aid. Not knowing what it is or how to apply for it could hurt your child’s chances of getting into a desired college. Even worse, it could mean that you end up paying more than you need to for your child to attend college.
• Organization is key: Before you even attempt to fill out a financial aid application, take some time to learn about what is required and to gather your supporting documentation. Too many parents and students wait until the last minute, and then complete the application in a rush. Mistakes can be made, information can be omitted, or deadlines can be missed when there is poor planning. This is an important document and it deserves your attention.
• Deadlines matter: There are some forms of financial aid which are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, but many parents and students still wait until the deadline to complete their application. This strategy could automatically exclude the student from some forms of assistance, and ultimately end up costing the family more money.
• Assumptions can be costly: Many families make assumptions about whether they make too little or too much money to be eligible for financial aid. Instead of seeking out accurate answers they don’t even bother to complete an application, so they miss out on any type of financial aid altogether. It is always best to complete the application and find out exactly how much is available before making any life-altering decisions about which college to attend.
• Don’t trust the rumor mill: There are many rumors out there about different ways to “play the FAFSA game.” You might hear about certain financial moves that can make your income appear lower, or may think that saying your child lives with an elderly relative will increase financial aid. It is always best to get the facts about how any of these possibilities pertain to your individual financial situation. Talk to a professional college financial aid advisor, your tax consultant, or the school’s financial aid office before falling victim to any of these false strategies.
• Changes are in the works. Important changes are being made to the FAFSA schedule beginning in 2016. Be aware of what these changes are, and determine how they can affect decisions you make about financial aid.
High school and college students are not the only ones who need to be open to learning. Don’t let a lack of knowledge affect your child’s future. Learn more about financial aid, and let your child reap the benefits of your wisdom!