Monday, July 15, 2013

Money for College? Start NOW!

If you are planning to attend some sort of post-secondary educational institution and are uncertain how to fund this endeavor, and if you are a senior in high school or the parent of a senior in high school this information is especially pertinent to you. Competition for scholarships is intense; the more money at stake, the more students who apply. To stand the greatest chance of securing a scholarship, especially one that is local, preparation is important.  You have to make yourself attractive to the people awarding the money. Would it surprise you to know that colleges want students who will become a distinguished alumni and give back to the school either through monetary means or through achievements earned that can be attributed to the college/university? Recognizing what you have to offer a college is important. Assuming you have identified how to sell yourself to a college of your choice, the challenge is securing as much funding as possible. Right out of the gate, lots of scholarships and grants are offered to students who are above average students, academically. Grades are not the only factor, but many scholarships use grade point average to narrow the application field. However, the categories that seem to carry more weight than grades include: ethnicity, financial need, service, special need, and character. Rarely does a scholarship application not include an essay question or two about an experience that happened from which the applicant grew/matured. Relying solely on your ability to get scholarships, though, is not wise. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). To help families with post secondary education expenses each year, the federal government gives out roughly 70 billion dollars. The free form is available from most guidance offices or it can be secured on line as well at  You can also complete the four-page form on-line. The time to begin hitting the FAFSA hard is right after the first of the year. Don’t delay in submitting this initial form. Sometimes an estimation of tax information is best as you can correct any errors or bad estimates later on. Delaying the completion of the FASFA form until late April (for example) could eliminate you from state aid for that year. Since FASFA requires a lot of information in order to be able to compute a legitimate picture of your family’s net worth, having the following information prepared in, say December, will help expedite the FAFSA process: social security number, current bank statements, investment accounts, mortgage information, and school codes. Additional information such as income tax returns for both you (if you work) and your parents and all associated W2 forms will come after the last day in January. It is good to begin to prepare by creating a file specifically for this information. You can also use this file for scholarship information. While these processes (scholarship applications and FAFSA) are not overly difficult they are time consuming.  The goal of all this time and energy is to get as much money as you can. The government’s goal is to do what they can to get money to the most needy and most deserving people. I do encourage you to consider the on-line completion of the FAFSA. It is a much quicker process because fewer steps are involved, and you won’t worry about the safe and prompt delivery of your important document by way of the postal carrier and various trucks.

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