Scholarships can be a great help to any college student, but high school students need to be realistic about their expectations and learn how to make their expectations more attainable. Unfortunately most high school counselors never get enough time to give the individual attention necessary to make this happen. As for FAFSA and EFC strategies, most guidance counselors are reluctant to even discuss the topic.
Guidance departments are usually overworked, especially as high school seniors are working on college acceptance, financial aid and approaching graduation. The topics of financial aid, parent’s assets, taxable incomes and other private family information are generally left alone, because of confidentiality issues and job description boundaries.
So How Do You Learn What You Should… Or Should Not, Be Doing?
Scholarships: As for scholarships, parents and students need to be realistic about their expectations. Every school is different and private schools generally cost more, but offer more scholarships, grants and merit aid. Here is what you need to know about the two main types of scholarships.
Merit Scholarships: If an average student is going to a school that offers merit scholarships for above average grades, the average student will probably get very little or no merit scholarships unless they did exceptionally well on their SAT’s or ACT’s. While students with above average grades and test scores can get very nice merit awards that may cover 50% or more of their tuition costs.
Private Scholarships: Provided that a student makes a diligent effort and applies to a minimum of 15-30 different scholarships each year, the average applicant can expect to receive $500 to $2,000 per year in private scholarships. Obviously, the more they apply for the better their chances of success. And if they make themselves stand out from the crowd, the success rate can increase dramatically.
If your student takes about one hour per scholarship application, that works out to between $33 and $66 per hour. Hard to find a part-time job that pays that much, and its usually tax-free.
FAFSA Preparation: Guidance departments generally will not get involved in financial aid forms with parents and students. They may bring in a guest speaker or a representative from a local college financial aid office to provide an overview of the steps, but these are usually very generic in nature.
Learning the in’s and out’s of the financial aid forms can be a nightmare the first time you file them, but it should get easier each year or with multiple children. You can check out many great articles on this topic, including a couple of my own, that will give you more details about the FAFSA and some of the common mistakes to avoid.
EFC Strategies: Another area that guidance departments tend to avoid is the specific strategies that families can utilize to help reduce their expected family contribution and increase their financial aid offers. The problem here is that most of these steps need to be taken before December 31st of the year before the student graduates and many families are unprepared because they find out too late or procrastinate too long.
EFC reduction strategies that can reduce adjusted gross income and minimize includable asset levels usually take some advance planning to reach their most effective levels. For most families this time-frame may be several years before the college decisions need to be made.
Summary: As you can see, the decisions that surround the financial aid aspects of college require advanced planning and some effort. It might be a better practice for high schools to start college planning with their students and parents when they enter 9th grade instead of 12th grade.
If you would like to discover additional ways to help maximize financial aid and reduce the high costs associated with college, you can download our FREE College Cost Savings Kit by clicking here. It is completely free to download, print and share with your friends or family. I’m confident it will help you to start the savings process now.