Parents of school children who desire to go to college have many anxieties about what it takes to find a school that fits their child and how to pay for it. For concerns that parents face, look at all the college planning elements to tackle, such as scholarships, college entrance essays, federal student aid applications, private loans, college education savings accounts, and the school application process itself. There are crazy words and acronyms like grants, FAFSA, merit-based, and EFC. Getting educated on planning for a college education is the key to a less stressful and more successful college planning experience.
Some advice to help alleviate those worries- Number one is to start early and tackle the college planning process one by one, step by step, and most importantly, look for help along the way. College is expensive, so start investing in tax advantage savings plans such as a custodial account or a 529 plan. Sign up to systematically invest a dollar amount every month; even if it is $25, you will be surprised how fast the value of those accounts can add up over time. Start the college planning process as early as 8th grade. No, it is not too late to start planning, even if your child is already in college, but the sooner you start, the easier and less stressful it becomes.
Again, look for help along the way, such as local College Test Prep centers to help your child get the best college entrance exam scores and assist in matching your child’s fondness and desires in the college experience with the best suitable one. Saving on the cost of education comes in many forms, such as having high schoolers get college credits by taking Advance Placement Studies and working towards Advanced Placement Scholar awards. All while in high school, College Level Examination Programs will help lower the cost of a college education.
To see if one qualifies for financial aid or how much one can borrow, one needs to start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Since it is free to apply, every high school senior and college student should complete the application EACH YEAR in order to see what offers are being made to the student and parents from the Department of Education. The Application process runs from October 1st through June 30th of each year. No matter how much money parents make, they should still complete the online process and do it early. Even if no aid is offered, the government offers low-interest loans that can help pay for college expenses. The FAFSA process was revamped in 2022 to streamline the number of questions asked, but the process can still be daunting to complete. The Financial Guys College Planning Department offers to help parents and students complete the FAFSA online process for free.
Start saving early for children’s education, start early in the process of college planning and ask for help along the way, and most importantly, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid via the Department of Education’s website.