College tuition. Two words that can send shivers down the spine of even a kindergartner’s mom.
And if you have a senior at home, you’re probably turning gray thinking about the expenses.
There are ways to mitigate the cost of college, of course, and that starts with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That’s the form that the federal government uses to determine eligibility for students to receive financial aid.
Grants, loans, work study…they’re all out there.
Learn how to ensure that your teen has the best chances of earning more of this free money.
1| Actually fill out the FAFSA form.
This sounds ridiculous, I know. But there are families out there who neglect to complete it at all.
Maybe you’re thinking that your household income is too high and so you won’t qualify for financial aid. Not necessarily true. There’s no income cut-off that disqualifies a family from aid, so not completing the form essentially means you may be leaving money on the table.
Other factors, such as the number of students in your household who are attending college at the same time, will affect your eligibility for aid. And even if you don’t qualify for federal grants, the unsubsidized Stafford loan and the PLUS loan are available without financial need.
And what’s more…many colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for merit-based aid for their school.
So seriously, Mom. Complete the form.
2| Complete it ASAP.
The FAFSA opened on October 1 for next school year’s financial aid awards. Although states have different deadlines for submitting the form, here are a few reasons to complete it right away:
- Students who apply sooner receive more money.
An Edvisors.com study found that students who applied within the first three months of the FAFSA opening have historically received more than double the grant funding of those who apply later.
- Some states award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis…
…and states with these types of programs can run out of money quickly.
- Filing earlier may mean you have a college aid offer earlier, too.
This will give you more time to compare offers between colleges to determine affordability. You can get a more accurate picture of how much you’ll be expected to contribute toward college much earlier in the process. It’s good to be proactive here!
Use my Financial Aid Worksheet to get everything all in one spot for each college. This worksheet will help you to compare the cost of schools side-by-side, and will also help you to track the big to-dos in order to secure that important financial aid for your teen.
3| Appeal the decision.
If you complete the form this month for your senior, your financial situation may change by the time your teen goes to college next fall. Situations like loss of a job, divorce or natural disasters can affect how much you’re able to contribute.
Colleges get this.
Different schools have their own procedures to follow for appealing the original decision. Contact the financial aid offices at the college your teen’s considering to ask how you can appeal the amount you’ve been awarded. Remember to be friendly, polite and appreciative – it’ll go a long way.
Let’s continue the conversation! Leave a comment below.