Paying for college has become a larger expense over the years, and it continues to increase every year. As a result, lots of parents look for other ways to help supplement tuition bills. Fortunately, there are millions of dollars of financial aid available for students who apply for it. Here are a few of the top strategies for finding and applying for financial aid:
Get an early start
The best approach to financial aid should be to start right away. Whether you are filing for federal aid, state grants or your teen is applying for specific scholarships, sending in documents on the tail end of the due date could mean that a lot of scholarship money is already accounted for. Certain states will give financial aid based on a first-come, first-served basis, so applying too late could be bad news.
Be mindful of deadlines
A missed deadline is a missed opportunity to earn free money to help pay for college. In order to maximize how much you will be able to find in scholarships, grants and loans, be mindful of when applications are due.
Add financial aid to campus visits
Part of the college application process is going on college campus visits. For many teens, this is one of the more exciting parts of applying and will help narrow down their choices. While teens will want to check out the campus, student centers and maybe a class or two, having a meeting with a financial aid adviser should be included in the trip. For applicants, speaking with an adviser is a great way to get on the school’s radar for any specific financial aid awards. An adviser can also help come up with a payment plan and might be able to seek out extra funding for financial needs.
Additionally, a financial aid adviser might be able to help if a school offers a disappointing financial aid package. If it’s not enough to cover the costs of going to school there, having a serious discussion about the situation could make a difference and the college might be able to find more aid.
Reduce a teen’s savings
If your teen has a large amount of savings or money in their name, colleges will consider that they will be able to use 20 percent of that amount to pay for school. By comparison, only 5.6 percent of a parent’s assets are considered necessary to pay for school.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the process that decides what type of financial aid a student is qualified for - including work-study, scholarships, grants and loans. Even if you’re not sure your teen will qualify, it is important to apply for FAFSA anyway. It can be difficult to predict how much your family will receive in aid, but the FAFSA form will cover virtually every institution.
Unfortunately, many parents and students neglect to fill out a FAFSA form or miss the deadline because they don’t think they will qualify for financial aid. However, to find the best financial aid, FAFSA is one of the best places to start. In addition to filling out the form, getting it in early will increase the chances of receiving a better financial aid package, because aid is based on a first-come, first-served basis. Each school may have a different deadline for financial aid applications, but filling out FAFSA should be done as soon as possible after Jan. 1. The financial packages given to students include both federal and state programs.
Make schools aware
Talking to a financial adviser might help a student get the right amount of aid, but making the school aware early on can be beneficial as well. If something has changed since filing a FAFSA or other financial aid forms - like a job loss - then a supplemental letter explaining the circumstances could help the situation. The FAFSA form is long, with more than 100 questions, but parents can include other information that would explain a financial situation.
For more info on the FAFSA, click HERE
The information contained in this article does not constitute financial, legal or tax advice and its authors make no claims about its accuracy or completeness. The authors of this article do not hold themselves out as providing any legal, tax, financial or other advice and do not make any recommendations or endorsements as to any investment, financial plan or any other product or services. The materials contained in this article do not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make, or refrain from making, any decision. As laws and regulations change frequently, we cannot guarantee that the information contained in this article is current or applicable to your specific circumstances. Laws and regulations may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Legal, tax and financial advice must always be tailored to your specific circumstances and nothing in this article should be viewed as a substitute for the advice of competent legal, tax or financial advisors.