The cost of a college degree is getting more expensive every year. According to College Board, the average four-year public college charges a tuition rate of $7,020 and the average tuition cost of a four-year private college is $26,273. That’s a lot of money. And while there are resources out there to help families cover their college expenses, who has the time to research these opportunities? It’s tough. The purpose of this blog is to simplify your life. If you follow these quick tips on financial aid, your college financing process will be a lot easier. Let’s get started…
Photo by Borman 818
- Research, Research, Research. Again, there is good information out there on financial aid, but you need to know where to look. I encourage families to research two types of areas: Scholarship funding and College Tuition Savings Plans. Scholarships and money from 529 plans can add up quickly. Every dollar that you can secure through these areas can cut down on the possible need to borrow money for your college expenses.
- Apply, Apply, Apply. Consider winning a scholarship like winning the lottery. There are many other people who want the same result, but only a handful of people will be picked as winners. Don’t just look at 1-2 scholarships, but apply to as many scholarships as possible. While it won’t necessarily mean that you’ll earn a scholarship, your odds will be much better if you apply to multiple scholarships as opposed to just a few. In the end, chances are you will qualify for at least one scholarship.
- Pay Attention to Deadlines. In the competitive dog-eat-dog world of financial aid, deadlines are hard and fast. You miss a deadline, and there is no turning back. Look at application materials, the requirements, and the submission deadlines. I’ve known funding organizations to return “late” applications to students, even if they missed the deadline by just one day. Missing a deadline is a dead-end.
- Learn from the Experts. Navigating the financial aid process is overwhelming. I encourage you to develop strong relationships with your high school guidance counselor and with financial aid representatives at the colleges and universities. Financial Aid professionals handle aid for college for a living so they stay current on changes to federal funding programs, loan rates and grant assistance.
- Complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a must-requirement for college-bound students. Families should complete the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible for the upcoming academic year.
- Attend College Goal Sunday. Intimidated by the FAFSA? That’s OK. Attend College Goal Sunday. It is a nationwide program for students and parents to get free help in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Many colleges and universities host a College Goal Sunday in mid-February. Fort Lewis College, for example, will host its College Goal program on February 20.
- Work a part-time job. Most students work part-time jobs during the week and on the weekends. Consider some of the money that students earn as the students’ financial contribution for college. Some students work a partnership with their parents–parents will pay the tuition expenses and the students will cover their entertainment and ”pizza” money with money from their part-time job. Remember–every little bit helps.
- Consider an Appeal. Once you get your financial aid package from colleges, look at them closely. If your financial situation has changed due to an unexpected drop in income, don’t hesitate to contact the colleges and universities to which you applied to let them know these changes. Most colleges allow families to submit an appeal letter explaining why they believe that their financial aid package should be reevaluated. Be prepared to provide supporting documentation, but remember, an appeal isn’t always granted. Colleges don’t have ESP, so if they don’t know that there have been financial changes, then they can’t consider you for an updated financial aid package. Make it easy for them and appeal when you have a need to do so.
These are some ways to have an easier and more pleasant time to secure aid for college. It can be lenghty and time-consuming, but by following these easy steps, you’ll be on the right pathway to success. Good luck.