Regardless of your financial situation, it is wise to plan ahead, and to be informed.
College is an investment, and an expensive one at that. Making good financial decisions requires time, careful research, and an understanding of options. It’s never too early to start planning, or to begin saving.
Familiarize yourself with college costs and financing options by attending our annual fall College Financing program hosted by financial planners from the Barnum Financial Group. In addition, there are several excellent online sources of information available at both FinAid: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid, as well as the Federal Student Aid site.
Colleges have a wide variety of approaches to providing financial assistance, ranging from adhering to a strictly need-based form of aid, to one that includes merit-based awards. You can learn more about what colleges offer by visiting the financial aid section of their websites, as well as contacting their financial aid offices directly when you have questions. You can also get an early estimate of college costs by accessing their Net Price Calculators and providing some basic financial information. Having an understanding of what colleges will expect you to contribute to college costs will help you in your planning. Having a frank, informed, and honest talk about college costs as a family before applying to college is something we strongly recommend.
When applying for need-based financial aid, all applicants fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is available October 1 of a student’s senior year. Some colleges also require the CSS Profile form and/or their own institutional forms. Deadlines to apply for financial aid typically correspond to the admission application due dates, and awards are usually made close to the time that offers of admission are made.
In addition to the aid that might be awarded by a college, outside scholarships should also be considered. Many are listed on the scholarship section of Naviance and posted on school bulletin boards. Students are also encouraged to sign up for free scholarship matching services on Fastweb and Unigo.
Most colleges that award financial aid will include student loans as a part of their package. It is wise to consider what a tolerable loan burden is before agreeing to take what is offered. More information about loans can be found at studentaid.ed.gov.