Q: We really don’t think our son or daughter will qualify for any financial aid, should we still file the financial aid forms?
A: Many families make the assumption that they will not qualify for any aid and that may be true for some. But until a student files for financial aid you just never know. Also keep in mind that a family’s situation can change and having their information on file provides a baseline for colleges to reference should there be reason. In addition, Federal Stafford student loans with favorable interest rates and repayment conditions require completion of the FAFSA form.
Q: Where can we find scholarships to help pay for college?
A: The best place to start looking is local, where many scholarships are linked to your school or community. After that, researching scholarships tied to your job, organization or interests makes the most sense. These type of scholarships will cover larger regions and have more applicants. The national scholarships, on the other hand, are more challenging and require a highly skilled writer with discipline and time management skills. Check out our resources page for some scholarship ideas.
Q: How will scholarships impact my financial aid award?
A: A direct scholarship from the college is free money with a string attached and will reduce your costs, as determined in the financial aid award. Other scholarships however, are considered outside money and may adversely impact a financial aid package, potentially dollar for dollar. How much of an impact and the way outside scholarships are treated is unique to each college and a call to the financial aid department before spending a lot of time researching and completing scholarship applications may be warranted.
Q: Is applying Early Decision a good idea?
A: Applying Early Decision to a college commits a student to attend that institution upon acceptance and must immediately withdraw all other pending applications from other colleges. Students applying Early Decision find out their fate early, speeding up the acceptance process and eliminating prolong anxieties. The downside is that with no other colleges competing for the student, the college may be less generous regarding financial aid, particularly merit based aid.
Q: Is it true that SAT and ACT test scores carry less weight for acceptance to many colleges?
A: That’s true, in recent years there has been a trend away from using test scores as a measure of acceptance to many colleges. The general feeling is that SAT and ACT tests are not on a level playing field and that these scores don’t always portray the true academic strength of a student. Not all institutions however, share these sentiments and the test scores still play a role in their acceptance process. Where SAT and ACT test scores does carry weight is in achieving merit. Colleges are much more inclined to award merit based scholarships to students with high test scores.
Q: My parents paid for my college education and I’d like to do the same for my kids how can I make that happen?
A: The reality is that times have changed and in today’s world, where college costs have spiraled out of control, the ability for many parents to pay for their children’s education is much more daunting. The best approach to make college a reality is to match the skills of the student with the needs of the college and combine this financial wherewithal of the family. Start by saving as early and as often as possible without sacrificing your own retirement. Support your children’s passions and encourage community involvement and most importantly make a commitment to focus on academics.