Financial Aid for College
The best way to help ensure your success in college and beyond is through planning. Do not believe there are shortcuts to get your degree without effort, planning, organization, and grit. Having good information from the onset then developing a roadmap for success will increase your odds of successfully navigating this process. You will find below, a list of tips and ideas to help you build your road map and keep on track through this process.
Take the time to understand how the financial aid process works. You can refer to Chapter 6 of the MatchCollege Complete Guide to College Admissions eBook for further information on financial aid. In short, the more you know in advance the better you can navigate the process.
- Apply for financial aid concurrently with the admission process. Do not wait until the college admission team renders a decision.
- Make the application for financial aid a requisite part of the process – regardless of your financial situation. Why? There are merit-based options available for those that qualify and you may not know if you qualify unless you step-through the application process.
- Work hard to attain the best ACT or SAT score you can manage. Practice, practice, practice. The scores earned through these standardized tests can not only impact your admission to college but can also help with financial aid options.
- Complete the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and all other required forms in advance. Read the instructions carefully and answer each item thoroughly. Make sure to check with the colleges on your list for any/all other required forms in advance.
- Check with your CPA to best leverage education tax benefits available in your state and municipality. It may be worth investing in a 529 plan, loan deductions, education tax credits, and a myriad other options in your area.
- Set stretch goals. You may qualify for a school with higher tuition yet receive a substantive financial aid package to offset the cost.
- Find out if you are eligible for scholarships and/or grants from your state of residence. If so, ask if those awards can be utilized for a college or university out of state, as well. This gives you options as you work towards a final decision as admissions and financial aid packages come together.
- Determine if you qualify for any local scholarships. This could take the form of non-profit organizations to corporations to community groups.
- Be realistic: steer clear from any institution or on-line company that promises scholarship monies – especially if there is an upfront fee required.
- Make sure to save early and often. More specifically, start planning for college expenses early and invest prudently. The law of compounding interest really can make a huge impact.
- If borrowing for college tuition is necessary, consider federal and state loans. These programs can go by a number of names (PLUS, Stafford, Perkins) so ask the school’s advisors for help determining the options.
- If a 4 year program is not tenable from the start, consider a 2 year program or community college to earn your degree. There are many great community colleges to choose from and can often be a great launching pad for your career.
- Earn college credits early. Many colleges count AP classes towards college credits along with credits for College-Level Examination Programs (CLEP).
- Familiar with the acronym ROTC? It stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps and can be a great way to build life-skills and receive merit-based scholarships while earning your college degree while serving in the military.
For additional resources, make sure to leverage our financial aid resources such as FAFSA Facts, Why Students Fail to Apply for Financial Aid, and Maximizing Your Financial Aid. These resources will help you determine how much financial aid is out there and how to maximize your resources to make the most of your education.