Once the college acceptance letter arrives, the next question becomes:
“How will we pay for college?”
The college financial aid and scholarship process can be stressful and tedious for both parents and students; however, there are ways to relieve the stress. In this article, we give tips on how you can maximize the amount of scholarships and financial aid you receive to pay for college.
According to Sallie Mae, families spent an average of $26,458 for undergraduate studies in 2017- 2018. Many of those families used more than one source of income to pay college tuitions- 47% of tuition was covered by family income and savings, 28% was paid with grants/scholarships, and 24% was paid with loans. With rising tuition costs, it is becoming more and more important to have a plan for paying for college and maximize the amount of aid received.
- Get a head start – Encourage students to begin applying for scholarships early. Some awards are available as early as elementary school and more become available for middle school and high school students. Remember – every penny counts, it may feel like a lot of work for one scholarship, but it adds up in the end.
- Don’t stop searching for ways to save – Scholarships are available for current undergraduates too. You may be able to reapply or renew a scholarship. Remember to ask about the renewal terms for scholarships to make sure that you meet requirements.
- Think local and small – Students tend to focus on the larger scholarships available, but small scholarships can add up to make a big difference. Many smaller scholarships may be funded by your local community so check out what is available from employers, religious institutions, or community groups.
- Pay attention to the details – Read and re-read the instructions for each scholarship and grant. Check the qualifications needed to apply, apply on time, and follow the instructions. You want to be as efficient as possible when applying for scholarships, so your hard work and time pays off. Don’t risk the chance of your application becoming disqualified for a small mistake.
- Look at the big picture – Don’t base your final decision on which school awards you the most money. It is important to consider the amount of aid you receive in comparison to the total cost of attendance. Sometimes the aid you receive from a college may seem like a lot, but the cost of attendance is even higher.
- Apply for FASFA – In 2017- 2018, 75% of families completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. However, out of the families that did not complete the FAFSA application, 48% did so because they believed that they wouldn’t qualify. It is recommended that you file an application because a completed FAFSA is required for federal student loans as well as many colleges’ merit-based aid. In addition, there are new policies that award need-based aid to families with high incomes under special conditions. Even if you are not considered for need-based aid, you can still receive a low-cost federal loan that is at least $5,500.
If you would like to learn more about planning for the financial expense of college, please contact SC&H Financial Advisors, Inc.