5 Overlooked Financial Aid Tips for Incoming College Freshman

Woman holding money representing Overlooked Financial Aid Tips

I know, it’s May. You’ve already picked your college and accepted your financial aid award. What more can there be to worry about except deciding whether to buy dorm furnishings and move them or wait and buy them once you arrive? Well, there are at least 5 financial aid related issues that if families don’t address now could hurt them financially come September. 1. Paying for college starts before the student ever sets foot on campus. I’m not talking about setting up a 529 plan or submitting the FAFSA. I’m talking about the fact that payment plans start as early as June for the coming year.   If you want to spread your payments out so they are as small as possible, you need to enroll in the college’s payment plan before your student ever registers for he ...

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Cost of Attendance (COA): What You Need to Know

two little kids researching what coa cost of attendance means

What does COA mean? COA stands for cost of attendance which is how much it will cost a student to attend a college for a year. This is not the same thing as what a college charges. It is a federally defined term that is meant to estimate how much students spend to complete a year of college. This includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, and transportation. Depending on the student, it can include dependent care, costs related to a disability, or costs for eligible study-abroad programs.

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Take A Quiz, Win A Free Report

Some colleges are more generous than others. If you are trying to pay less for college, you’ll need to do research BEFORE your student applies to college to find out which colleges offer students more money than others. Test your knowledge and take our quick quiz below. Loading…

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Dangers of PLUS Loans

student pulling and pushing rock representing dangers of PLUS loan

If you are a parent considering taking out a PLUS loan for your graduating high school senior to attend college, you are almost certainly making a mistake. The fact is that if you can’t afford a college without a PLUS loan, then the college is simply not affordable. Yes, this isn’t fair. It’s hard to say no to your child who has worked so hard to get into college. But you are the adult in this situation and you need to know that the government limits the amount of money students can borrow through the Direct Student loan programs for a reason. PLUS loans are pretty much financial time bombs with few options for defusing.

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What I Wish I’d Known About College Costs

What I wish I knew about college costs

As a parent, I like to learn as much as I can from other parents who have already blazed the trail on a road I’m about to embark on. Why reinvent the wheel? Right?  That’s one of the reasons Michelle Kretzschmar and I started a Facebook group (Paying For College 101), so families could learn from other families who have already been through the process. I’ve been delighted to see more experienced parents “pay it forward” by sharing their knowledge and pitfalls to help others not repeat mistakes they wished they could have avoided. From time to time, I ask members of the group to share their experience and advice with families just starting the college admissions process. The reality is, when it comes to college costs, what you don’t know can hurt you. And it can hurt you for years. If you ...

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Scholarships: The Different Types and Largest Source

2 kids researching the source and different scholarship types

What does it mean? In the college financial aid world, scholarships are a form of gift aid, or free money, that you do not have to repay. The term “scholarship” is loosely used and can refer to money coming from different types of sources. Private scholarships are free money that is awarded by corporations, non-profits, community organizations, etc. – generally anyone that is not a college. Another scholarship type is merit aid–these are scholarships given out by colleges themselves.

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6 Ways a Gap Year Can Save You Money

Student standing between 2 paths representing how a gap year can save you money

Gap years have become increasingly popular among graduating high school students. A gap year is when students delay starting college for year to pursue other interests. Generally, the students have already been accepted to a college and ask to defer their admissions for a year but it’s not necessary. Nor do students have to pay for high price programs to have a meaningful gap year. In fact, a well thought out and executed gap year experience can actually save students significant money. 1. Graduate on Time Gap years are about exploration and experience. And remember, they don’t have to cost a lot of money.  When students take the time to explore their different interests, they can make more informed decisions when deciding on a major and classes. This is important because stude ...

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What are College Grants?

Two kids asking what are college financial aid grants?

What does it mean? College grants are a type of financial aid you do not have to repay. In simple terms, it’s free money to spend on college. They fall under the category of “gift aid.” How does it affect how much you pay for college? Obviously, the more grants you have, the less money you will pay for college. The reason you need to pay attention to grants is because many people see the term “grant” and assume that it is awarded based on need. This is not always true. The largest and most well-known grant is probably the federal Pell Grant program. Pell Grants are awarded based on your EFC. Students must demonstrate financial need to qualify for a Pell Grant. However, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, another federal program, is not based on need. In fa ...

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What Does It Mean To Be Wait Listed?

students standing in line representing the truth about being wailt listed by a college

For a certain group of high school seniors, April is the cruelest month. Not for any of T.S. Elliot’s reasons but because they have been wait listed at their dream college. Many will spend the month frantically tracking down any and all possibilities for getting off the waitlist. They will agonize over their unknown chances of actually getting accepted. However, come May 1st, unless they still believe in the tooth fairy, they will go ahead and send in their deposit to one of the schools that they did get into and hope for better news in the coming days.

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What Does EFC Mean? Expected Family Contribution

What does EFC mean

What does it mean? EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. When students submit their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or PROFILE financial aid forms, the information is used to calculate their EFC. The EFC is the amount of money that the family is expected to be able to pay for college. Colleges use the EFC to determine how much financial aid to award students. How does your EFC affect how much you’ll pay for college? Theoretically, the EFC should be the maximum amount students would pay to attend any college. If a college charged more than the EFC, the student would receive financial aid to make up the difference. If the college charged less than the EFC, the student would not be eligible for any need-based aid.   There are two major areas where the reality of ...

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