7 Financial Aid Tips for Parents

If you have a child in college or on the way to college, you’re well aware of the cost of higher education. Although you may have had the foresight to put aside some money for your child’s years in college, it probably won’t be enough. The alternative is to borrow the money, and it really doesn’t matter if the loan is in your child’s name or in yours, it’s going to be expensive. These tips on financial aid may help.

Saving Money

The best way to ensure that your child gets a college education is for you to save the money that will be necessary to pay for it. There is no guarantee the funds will be available for student loans when your child reaches the point of considering which college to attend. Having the money in your savings portfolio will allow you to not only send your child to college, but it will also give you more choice in picking a school. The earlier you begin saving money for your child’s college education, the more money will accumulate by the time they graduate from high school. You should also encourage your children to begin saving money for their own higher education. This will not only provide need funds for college, but will help prepare them for the future by teaching them the value of a dollar.

Grants and Scholarships

In order to lessen the burden of your child’s college education, you should encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities throughout high school, while maintaining high grades. This combination will help them become eligible for grants and scholarships. The selection committees for these forms of financial aid are always on the lookout for individuals that exemplify good citizenship, so if your child volunteers to help charitable organizations it will go a long way toward being selected for a grant or scholarship–however, it’s important that they keep their grades up at the same time. If your child is in the National Honor Society or is part of the staff at the school newspaper, these activities will undoubtedly be noted by the selection committees.

Complete the FAFSA

Even if you and/or your child have enough money stashed away to pay for a college education, you should still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) In the event something drastic happens and your savings portfolio takes a huge hit, you will have something to fall back on–and if you don’t have the money in the first place then a student loan may be your child’s only option if they hope to attend college. Keep in mind that simply filling out the form is no guarantee that you’ll qualify for financial aid, so you should make sure it’s done correctly.

Deadlines Are Important

When filling out forms for student loans you should not only make sure they’re accurate, but they must be turned in on time. There is a limited amount of money available that is earmarked for student loans–when it’s gone, it gone–so if you intend to take advantage of the federal financial aid you need to get the application in by deadline. You can call the financial aid office at the college your child would like to attend to find out what the deadline is, or have your child ask their high school guidance counselor.

Your EFC May Affect Choice of College

When your student loan application is being considered, there is a formula used to determine how much money the family can be expected to contribute for college expenses. This is called EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. The more money your family is deemed able to put towards your child’s education, the less money they’re eligible for in student loans. It may be a good idea to contact your child’s guidance counselor to find out what your family may be expected to contribute. Forewarned is forearmed.

Maximize Financial Aid Eligibility

In order to keep your Expected Family Contribution at a low rate, you can use some of your savings to pay off credit cards or other outstanding bills. This will reflect on the amount of money you have available to contribute for college expenses. Although you should encourage your child to save money, you may want to put the money they save into an account in your name, because 20% of your child’s assets are counted against them when their student loan application is being considered. On the other hand, only 5.6% of your assets are taken into consideration.

Discounts for Multiple Children

If you have more than one child applying for student loans at the same time, your family may be eligible for financial aid discounts. This will most likely only apply if all the children are attending the same school. Contact the financial aid office at the school for details.

Guest post from Taylor Harris. Taylor writes about the best online colleges.