4 College Financial Planning Tips for Parents of 10th Graders
College is just around the corner for your child. While she may be stressing about keeping her grades up and getting accepted into the school of her dreams, you may be concerned about how you’ll pay for it. These four tips will help prepare you for college-associated fees and finances.
Get to Know the Financial Aid Process
The financial aid process can feel overwhelming and complicated. Start looking into it now, while you don’t have a time crunch.
There are many factors involved in evaluating and comparing financial aid offers, including how much your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or what for what percentage you’ll be expected to pay, the percentages of the packages loans will comprise (your child will have to pay these back after graduating), and how much grants and scholarships, which your child doesn’t need to pay back or account for.
Understanding College Costs: FAQs About Financial Aid in Practice offers more information about evaluating financial aid packages. You can using this EFC Calculator to calculate your family’s expected contribution to your student’s tuition.
Along with review the rules and procedures involved in financial aid, you should also strive to understand what financial aid really is and why it’s important. For instance, some financial aid packages may cover just tuition, while others include expenses such as room and board.
Learn about concepts like work study, a part of a package in which your student will work in some capacity at her college to contribute to her tuition. Get to know the forms you need to fill out, such as the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and IDOC. These forms are used by the government and individual schools to determine your family’s eligibility for financial aid and how much they will contribute.
Start Gathering Financial Documents
Review what you’ll need to help your child fill out the FAFSA, including tax returns, bank statements, and other records that demonstrate your income. A list of documents and what they’re used for appears in What Information Will I Need to Complete the FAFSA?.
You’ll most likely use the most recent information available, which probably includes information for this year (since your child will apply in fall or winter, and your taxes for the previous year are due in April—which will be Junior year). Save the important financial documents you receive now, and put them in a folder that’s easily accessible to you.
Look into Scholarships
Outside scholarships can be a great resource to help your child pay for college tuition. They may be merit-based, meaning they are earned as opposed to based on financial need, as many financial aid packages are. Understand that colleges may factor scholarships into financial aid packages they offer.
Start looking into scholarships now. There are many available for high school juniors, so gather together a list of scholarships, deadlines, and what your child needs to do to win them. Check out 15 College Scholarship Resources for help finding appropriate scholarships.
Under some circumstances, students may be automatically entered into scholarship contests. One example is the National Merit Scholarship contest. Students’ junior-year PSAT scores automatically enter them into consideration, and they don’t need to do anything else, unless they are selected as semifinalists or finalists. Your student’s SAT scores may also help her earn scholarships.
Scholarships can be a great way to supplement financial aid, so it’s a good idea to investigate potential awards for your child. Some services, such as Fastweb, allow you to find scholarships targeted to specific interests and demographics easily.
Discuss Financial Expectations with Your Student
You probably understand your financial situation better than your child does. Have a discussion about finances now, before your student gets her heart set on a school you might not be able to afford. Read more about what this conversation should entail in 6 Crucial Conversations to Have with Your Student Before College Application Season.
Discuss how much you’ll be able to contribute to your child’s college education. Explore scholarships and your own expectations. For instance, you might ask her to get a job and contribute to the EFC herself, on top of work study. Go over the costs, including application fees, tuition, room and board, books, and submitting score reports, and be honest and forthright about what you can afford. Your finances might limit the college pool for your child, so it’s best that she understands that now.
Understanding the costs of college and reviewing the procedures is an important part of the college admissions process. Taking the time to review the necessary forms, paperwork, scholarships, and your own financial situation now will give you a head start for when your child is ready to head off to school—which will happen before you know it.
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