Many people think that they won’t qualify for aid to pay for their childrens’ college. As a result, they don’t even bother to apply. Big mistake. Even if your income is high, you should still investigate financial aid. And believe it or not, as your kids’ college tab rises, so does your eligibility for assistance.
Your first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Don’t worry. Completing this form isn’t so bad, but I’ll tell what is: going to a 2 1/2 hour meeting held by the high-school to “explain” FAFSA. SNOOOZER…. What a waste of time! ( I missed 3 episodes of Law and Order!) Basically, the FAFSA form asks for the parents’ and child’s income and assets. Then they apply a formula to calculate how much you have to cough up verses how much your child’s college “stimulus package” will be.
TIP: You don’t have to wait for the FAFSA folks to make their calculations. You can visit FinAid and do your own quick calculation right now. Then you’ll know if it makes sense to go through the application process or not.
Want to boost your chances of qualifying for financial aid? Take these steps:
- Don’t hold assets in your child’s name.
FAFSA applies 20% of Junior’s assets towards college. Only 5.4% of the parent’s assets are counted.
- If your child already has assets – consider spending them before filling out the FAFSA forms.
Use the money for the car you promised or a computer. These items don’t have to be listed on the FAFSA application. But be careful. You have to spend the money on behalf of your child.
Once you collect from FAFSA, keep going. Many schools offer academic merit scholarships and other scholarships for unique talents. (Why do you think my daughters took music lessons before they could walk?) All kidding aside, get your kids and grandkids involved in sports and music early. It could really pay off when the time comes.
Whatever you do, I highly recommend against borrowing money for college. I don’t want you to do it and I don’t want your student to do it. If you can get grants, terrific. If your student can work during school – even better. Get the best college education you can afford but do not make the mistake of saddling yourself or child with debt.