Most Helpful Advice for Financial Aid

February 3, 2012

As the parent of a college bound child, there’s nothing worse than worrying about a child’s future and college plans when there isn’t anything left in the bank account. If you do get lost in the maze of all the financial aid jargon, you’re not the only one. It’s a little bit like banging your head against the wall at first, and why do they make it so hard to understand? Because many families choose to defraud the system, and there has to be a cutoff for financial aid. If you aren’t financially prepared for your child’s new stage in life, there are some things that you can do to help the process and even find money to help your child go to school.

Start Today

No finances? There’s no time like the present to do something about it. You can worry about the future or take the time to start on a new path. There are important steps that you should be taking as well as your child. Even in high school, students can look into scholarships, work study programs and private funding. There may even be an after school work program that students can get into to start saving for school. You can consider options that are cheaper, such as taking CLEP tests to earn credits without taking courses or taking online classes.

Complete FAFSA Right

If you do have trouble filling out the FAFSA, then you should ask for help from a school guidance counselor or professional. You have to submit a correct FAFSA in order to get the most aid. Many students do not send in the necessary verification forms simply because they think that they are being called “liars.” This isn’t true. In some cases, they are asking for verification to determine if you qualify for even more aid. If your application does contain errors or incomplete responses, you won’t get any aid, because the application will be returned. Since most need-based financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, the first few weeks could seriously impact what your financial aid package will be.

Saving Money

If you don’t think you have anything to save, have you tried? A dollar a day a long time ago would have started a college fund early. However, you should try saving as much as you can now. Family assets are a factor in financial aid eligibility but it still makes sense to start saving for college. More importantly, you’ll be expected to contribute some portion to your child’s education. It’s actually cheaper to use savings rather than allow students to take a loan or borrow against credit cards or home equity, which have all been used to send students to college in the past.

Getting Everybody Together

You shouldn’t be the only one taking responsible. If your child wants to go to college, then there are steps that he can take as well. The federal government is available to help students go to school and reward those who have more than one dependent student enrolled in college at the same time. In fact, your expected family contribution can drop if you make the decision to go back to school yourself. That’s just another way that you can get more money and you can also work towards a different career.

Negotiate

There’s always a chance that you’re not getting the most out of your financial aid and that your college can give you more. You can always negotiate with the financial aid office if you feel that you’re being short changed. The final student aid packages are made by people, just officers and school officials do not take into consideration every application that crosses their desks. You can help them understand what you have to pay for and what your child needs better by making a formal inquiry and talking to an officer.

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