No matter how much you prepare, most parents find themselves shocked when they finally see the bill for their children’s tuition. Even if your child is going to a public college or community college, rather than a private school, tuition and fees continue to increase at exorbitant rates. Few families, regardless of how prepared they are, will find it easy to pay for their children’s education. Whether you have saved since your child’s birth, or were not able to at all, there are resources that will help you and your child confront these issues head-on as you are applying to college.
At this point, you should be familiar with, and have filled out, the FAFSA, which is the acronym for the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid. This can easily be done online, and should be done as quickly as possible: the funds are first come, first serve, so the sooner you complete yours, the better your chances are of collecting on the loans and scholarships for which your child is eligible. Even if you are not sure that you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA anyway to be sure. You may be surprised at what you discover.
Once you have filled out the FAFSA, a financial aid award letter from each of the schools to which your child has applied will arrive detailing the amount of loans, grants, and scholarships available. If what is provided is still not sufficient for your child’s needs, get in touch with the financial aid department at the school they plan on attending and see what other resources they have available. Do not be afraid to ask questions and get in touch with a variety of administrators. If it happens that your financial situation has drastically changed since you filed your FAFSA, do not forget to contact the school to fill them in. For example, if you have lost a job and are unable to pay for as much of your child’s tuition as you previously could, it is possible that your financial aid could be increased.
Despite the federal and school resources available to your child, it makes sense to apply for as many scholarships as possible. These can be found through local community organizations and churches or synagogues. They can also be tailored for students of particular interests, talents, skills, and desired majors.
While there a lot of ways to earn or qualify for tuition funds, encouraging your child to get part-time work is another way to increase school funding. Many college students are forced to work out of necessity, but even if it is not mandatory, having a little extra cash can make loans and scholarships stretch that much more. Other ways to help your child to save money is to guide them as they choose housing and accommodations at their school of choice. Many dorm situations are far more expensive than general housing, especially because of the amenities provided, so make sure that wherever they live, it’s at as good a value as possible.
For more tips about applying to and paying for college, check out these useful tip sheets: How to Get Free College Applications with Fee Waivers, College Application Advice, and Tips for Writing Your College Essay.
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