Student Financial Aid

Answers to your Mom and Dad’s questions about student financial aid

Student Financial Aid

 

Student Financial Aid Questions


Parents and financial aid


Q: My daughter is in love with a college and wants to apply early decision. We’re concerned about finances and want to know if applying ED makes sense.

A: This can be tricky, as applying ED effectively limits her options. If you are prepared to support her financially if she gets in and the  student financial aid is doable from your vantage point, then a little advanced research can put your mind at ease. Visit the student financial aid office at her first-choice college in August or September of her senior year. Take your most recent pay stubs as well as your federal tax returns from the previous year. Most financial aid officers will work with parents to establish an “early estimate” of your expected family contribution (EFC). If it is close to the number you have in mind and you are prepared to forego other options, ED not only makes your daughter happy, it makes sense. If not, she would be wise to keep her options open.


Q: What will happen to the student financial aid our oldest child currently receives when his younger brother enrolls next fall?

A: In all likelihood, it will increase. The awarding process begins with an assessment of your EFC. Whereas this amount was used to support one student in college last year, it will now be needed to support two students. The respective colleges should recognize this and expect that you will contribute half to the support for each of the boys’ education.


Q: Can I count on institutional scholarships being renewed?

A: Read the fine print on each student financial aid award about “renewability.” Students must reapply for need-based assistance every year. For merit scholarships that are renewable, recipients are often required to achieve and maintain a certain GPA.


Q: I’m about to start my senior year. Is there anything I can do now to improve my chances of getting good student financial aid?

A: Absolutely! Put yourself on the right competitive playing field. Colleges are constantly making decisions to admit based on how they value the students who have applied. Putting yourself on the right playing field means you have applied to a college where you are not only qualified, but are highly attractive as a potential member of its community. To get the best financial support, apply to colleges where your credentials are likely to be most compelling.


Q: How much negotiating can we expect in the financial aid process?

A: Though colleges generally don’t like to think they negotiate student financial aid awards, some will invite you to submit the best offers from other schools in making competitive adjustments to their own. Regardless, most colleges will review appeals based on new information (loss of income, economic catastrophe, etc.). If you make such an appeal, do it in writing directly to the college’s student financial aid office.



Q: I’m afraid that based on the information I provide on student financial aid forms, my family appears wealthier than we really are. How does that affect my child’s chances for aid?

A: Many parents have become accustomed to lifestyles that include discretionary purchases (summer homes, extra appliances) that constrict their cash flow. As you apply for financial aid, you will be reminded that these are choices you have made—choices that hold a cash value that you could redirect toward college expenses. Think twice before buying that flat panel TV.


Q: Which form should we use in applying for student financial aid?

A: Check the financial aid requirements of each school in question. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required at all schools to determine your eligibility for government funding, and many private colleges will want you to complete the CSS Profile as well. Don’t assume, however, that both forms will produce the same information. It is not uncommon for the Profile and the FAFSA to indicate different EFC amounts.


Peter Van Buskirk is the author of Winning the College Admission Game, published by Peterson’s. The book provides strategies for finding and getting into the college best suited for the student, with advice for both parents and teens. For more, visit Petersons.com or TheAdmissionGame.com.


Q: I’m afraid that based on the information I provide on financial aid forms, my family appears wealthier than we really are. How does that affect my child’s chances for aid?
A:
Many parents have become accustomed to lifestyles that include discretionary purchases (summer homes, extra appliances) that constrict their cash flow. As you apply for financial aid, you will be reminded that these are choices you have made—choices that hold a cash value that you could redirect toward college expenses. Think twice before buying that flat panel TV.

Q: Which form should we use in applying for financial aid?
A:
Check the financial aid requirements of each school in question. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required at all schools to determine your eligibility for government funding, and many private colleges will want you to complete the CSS Profile as well. Don’t assume, however, that both forms will produce the same information. It is not uncommon for the Profile and the FAFSA to indicate different EFC amounts.

Peter Van Buskirk is the author of Winning the College Admission Game, published by Peterson’s. The book provides strategies for finding and getting into the college best suited for the student, with advice for both parents and teens. For more, visit Petersons.com or TheAdmissionGame.com.


Next Stepper talk back: What is your advice to parents on how to help you plan for college?

Listen to your teen. If you do not agree with a decision they are making regarding the college process, take the time to find out why they are making that choice and be willing to explain your side of the issue. —Jesse, Sturbridge, Mass.

My advice to parents is don’t help too much. Let your child write their own résumé, fill out their own applications, call for information themselves, etc. Just supervise and check over their paperwork. —Karlie, Thibodaux, La.

My advice is to start a separate savings fund ASAP for the child because college nowadays is pretty expensive. —Giselle, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Parents should provide support and help us in finding a college that we want to go to—not where they want us to go to. They should help us to think about the campus life and the real world without giving us a lecture. —Holly, Middletown, R.I.

My advice to parents is to listen to your teen and their dreams and desires. Communication is vital. Also, be supportive and even enthusiastic about our plans. Try to be there as much as possible, and help with filling out the FASFA. Most importantly, pray for us! —Susi, Cedarville, Ohio

Motivate your child to keep their grades up. —Arie, Blakely, Ga.

I want my parents to be with me when touring the campuses this fall and help me in deciding which university is right for me. —Kara, Dallas, N.C.



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