In a recent survey of parents with children under the age of 17 the biggest concern was being able to provide for their college education. This actually surpassed the availability of alcohol and drugs in schools so it’s now at the top of the list. Additionally, if you are a single parent then the task becomes even more daunting and tantamount to your success will be starting early and getting a leg up on what you will need. Letting the ROI on your investments do some of the heavy lifting will be as important as how much you put away. Now most of us parents can admit, particularly if you have a son, that in back of your mind you dream of him/her earning a scholarship one day and taking that burden both mentally and financially off your plate, but in the event reality sets in here are some tips to help yon you use other methods other than their athletic prowess to get them to a quality University.
- Start Early – Get an idea very early of your what your Expected Financial Contribution or EFC
will be. By getting an idea of what you might pay, you can find colleges within your price range and identify what you might need in scholarships and loans to manage your tuition costs. The more financial aid information you can gather, the better.
- Choose the Right Vehicles to Achieve Financial Goals – As much as capital preservation is tantamount to a reaching tuition cost, it can also be the major hindrance. Quite simply, any return you receive in a ‘riskless’ vehicle will not get your goal, .025% in savings or money market actually is losing money due to inflation and potentially taxation depending on how the account is vested. Frankly, you’re going to need to take at least a little risk to achieve the necessary levels of return and minimal growth expectations.
- Learn About Marketing Your Child – This is one of the most important aspects of competing for merit-based awards. I had a friend that owned his company and had is daughter “interning” during the summers, gave her a title, and had her completing task that he was able to draw correlations to his bottom line. Now, some may look at this as extending reality but these are the tings recruiters want to see on resumes. Highlight your child’s accomplishments and an award committee will be that much more likely to consider giving a scholarship to your son or daughter. For example coaching a youth team as well.
- Make a Stop at the Financial Aid Office Part of Your Campus Visit – Ask to speak with someone in the student financial aid office — it’s the best way to get your family on the radar for campus-based awards. Afterwards, take some notes! These contacts could come in handy later.
- Do A Little Homework Of Your Own – It’s a painful reality that some universities down really need your child to maintain their standards, in other words that spot is going to be taken by you or someone else, so don’t create reasons for them to look in another direction. Determine if your child’s application for aid affects the probability of admittance. If so, find out how.
- Determine If “Early Decision” Is The Right Way To Go – If your child is thinking of applying Early Decision or Early Action, determine how it will affect your chances for student aid. Early Decision acceptance may prevent you from comparing awards, because your child will have to commit to the school before you see the aid offers from other applications. (This is not a factor if your child is accepted under an Early Action or Single-Choice Early Action application, as these are non-binding offers.)
- Determine The Extent Of Awards And Grants – If your child receives an outside scholarship, find out how it will affect your student financial aid award. Some schools will lessen grant aid, and others will pare down on loans. The school’s policy will affect the amount you’ll have to borrow.
- Pay Attention And Adhere to Deadlines. – Once again, don’t give them a reason to reject you. The sooner your child files his or her college applications, the better your chances of receiving aid. To assist with financial aid for college forms, file your taxes as early in the year as possible. Keep in mind that if you are applying to schools that require the PROFILE financial aid application, it may have an earlier deadline than the FAFSA.
- Complete the FAFSA Form – Check your ego at the door and fill out the Financial Aid form, even if you think you won’t qualify, the worst they can say is no, and very affluent families sometimes qualify for aid at certain high-tuition schools. This single application is your gateway to all federal loan, grant, and work-study awards that total in the billions of dollars.
- Tell Them About Yourself and Your Situation – Make your college aware of special circumstances
If you have lost your job since completing the FAFSA or PROFILE, inform schools about your situation. Most have standard policies that allow for the use of projected income, which could increase financial assistance.
If you are anything like me you are going to extensively involved in the process, so remember this is no different than a job application or that first home loan, in some ways its actually more intense because of the cost of failure, so you have to do a bit of selling. Emphasize your child’s strengths, minimize the weaknesses, and think about how you are going to articulate how they stand out.