While I have intuitively known for a long time that paying for college for my children would be a challenge, until recently, I never knew how complicated and comprehensive proper planning could be. For starters, planning in general should commence before high school even begins. From academics and sourcing interests for your student to profiling your financial situation to the potential aid programs that are out there.
While you may scoff at the notion of financial aid, instinctively thinking that this only refers to low income folks, and you make too much money, this would be your first vital error! Financial aid is a general term that represents both Federal aid – monies that are targeted for low income folks, but also privately doled out aid – private institutions or the private universities themselves. In total approximately $130 billion (that’s B as in Billion) of aid is awarded every year. As there are about 16 million post-secondary students in the U.S, that’s about $8000 per student. Does everyone get their fair share – no, because many have false preconceptions or don’t understand the process.
Next, you need to profile schools and match the abilities and strengths of your student against a pool of schools you wish to apply to. Don’t just apply for the weather or football team, or because it was your alma mater! Also, you need to let the schools know that you are applying with their competitors.
If you want any chance of receiving a good offer – like any business transaction, you need to have leverage on your side. Good grades or talent of some kind that the school is in need of.
Financially speaking, when it’s all behind you, its sort of like sitting on the airplane and talking with neighbor about how much they spent for their ticket. You are either going to be really happy or really not.
What can you do? Get informed. Get help. There are lots and lots of resources out there, and many are free.
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