With the typical student graduating with $24,000 in student loans and only 50% of students completing a four-year degree within six years success in the financial aid process can be significantly improved when a family develops a financial aid strat
egy. While the planning process can sometimes seem a bigger obstacle than getting accepted to college the investment of a bit of time early on is often the difference of thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid. The obvious question is “Where do you begin?”
A financial aid strategy will consist of three pieces:
Financial Aid Plan: The first is what can be called the financial aid plan. As part of the plan families will have to investigate how much a college actually costs, they will have to determine what they will be expected to pay at each college, and they will have to be very careful about making sure they only apply to colleges where grants and scholarships, or free money, make up the bulk of the financial as opposed to loans. The purpose of the plan is to determine how your family is going to pay for college.
Filing the Forms: The second part of the strategy deals with filling out all the financial aid forms. It will be important to make a list of all the forms that are necessary to apply for financial aid, figure out the deadlines for each form, and then finally filling out the actual forms and submitting them on time. For some families this will be a simple task. For others it can get pretty complicated.
Evaluating and Appealing Financial Aid Awards: The third part of the strategy involves evaluating the financial aid awards received from each school. It is possible that a family can negotiate a better offer at certain schools, reducing their out-of-pocket costs for attending. You will have to know what to look for in the awards and how to ask for more money.
We will begin posting blogs about each segment of the financial planning process to break the pieces down to manageable and understandable components. While a successful financial aid plan will require the investment of some time. The payoff will be a better financial aid package. This of course leads to a less expensive college education. And one that may not require $24,000 in student loans or six years to complete.