Admit it: With uncertain financial times, every penny counts towards college costs. As seniors enter the final stretch of completing college applications, many parents are wondering how they will finance their child’s education. Many middle and upper-middle class families often neglect the importance of financial aid applications and think applying for financial aid is futile. Yet, college tuition is increasing annually and often increases more rapidly than the average cost of living. Annual college tuition can easily tip the $40,000 – $50,000 mark. This makes understanding the financial aid process critical. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer these strategies to make financial aid process count.
Count on applying for financial aid. Everyone with concerns about the cost of college should apply for aid. Each college has specific policies on both the criteria used to award aid and on types of aid offered. Some colleges limit the impact family income or assets have on aid awards. Other colleges have reduced or entirely eliminated loans from financial aid offers. It can be quite difficult to interpret policies and to know what to expect from various schools. Even though the process can be confusing, it is best to apply for financial aid.
Eligibility is based on several factors, including income, assets, family size and the number in college. Even families earning healthy incomes could qualify for grant and merit aid at colleges with high costs of attendance.
Count on strict deadlines. Meeting deadlines is essential in the financial aid process because all colleges and universities have limited amounts of institutional funding. Applicants who miss specified deadlines may receive reduced institutional aid awards due to limited availability of funds. Keep in mind that not knowing deadlines is not an acceptable reason for missing them. Begin aid process early. If a student requires financial aid to attend, aid deadlines are as important as admission deadlines.
Count on multiple applications. All financial aid applications are not the same. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is required for all federal aid programs as well as many state and scholarship programs. Aid applicants should complete the FAFSA every year.
An institutional aid application is usually required for university-specific money. The CSS/Financial AidProfile form is used by many public and private colleges and collects more data that provides a better snapshot of a family unique situation.
In addition, state grant programs, private scholarships and external programs may require additional applications. Check with the awarding agency as some will require only an application while others may require an essay or additional financial resource information.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.