5 Reasons High-Income Families Should Apply for Financial Aid

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Many high income families hesitate to complete and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), while other flat-out refuse to do so.

Why don’t they file?

They know that their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be higher than the cost-of-attendance at any school of interest and, therefore, see no reason to share their family’s financial information with the schools.

This mindset can prove detrimental and should be reconsidered.

Here are 5 reasons why high income families should file the FAFSA…

  1. To demonstrate the ability to pay without assistance.

This can help with admissions. While schools claim to admit students on a need-blind basis, that’s simply not true.

  1. To qualify for merit-based aid.

Many schools will not consider students for merit-based aid unless a FAFSA has been filed.

  1. To give kids “skin in the game” via federal loans.

Filing a FAFSA is required should a student or family wish to obtain low-interest federal loans.

  1. The family might just qualify, especially with more than one child in college.

Wealthy families may qualify for aid at more expensive schools, as factoring in a second child cuts parent income in half.

  1. Because the family’s financial situation may change.

A big job loss or unexpected medical bills may strain family finances. Priority may be given to students with the FAFSA (or other financial aid forms) on file.

Contact our Professional College Planners for more information and/or to schedule a meeting to discuss your family’s college planning campaign.

What is the Real Problem We Solve for Families?

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This picture cracks me up.

Obviously it’s a joke. But it’s also making a point…

College debt is a problem. A $1.3 trillion dollar problem at last count.

I point this fact out because it’s the #1 problem we solve with our financial solutions.

Parents headed down the PLUS loans path automatically are overpaying for college and, potentially, much worse.

They could be falling for the dreaded College Loan Trap.

From the US News & World Report…

But parents need to think about borrowing decision like this through to graduation and beyond, before signing off on that first loan. A $20,000 loan for freshman year may sound manageable, but multiply that by the number of years you expect your student to be in school and the number of college bound children in the household and suddenly you owe $160,000 in Parent Direct PLUS loans, assuming you only have two children. 

That works out to about a $1,800 monthly payment under a standard 10-year plan.

Ouch…

Most of the families we see can barely add an extra $500 to their monthly budget (without changing their lifestyle) let alone $1,800.

We know this problem exists…

Most parents don’t.

PLUS loans are such a bad deal: 4.2% origination fees; 7% interest rates; not tax-deductible; and, potentially cash-flow crushing payments.

Who in their right mind would CHOOSE this route?!?

Yet that’s where so many families are headed.

I mean, they flat out tell us this is their plan in the free evaluations

So we help families avoid the College PLUS loan trap and then guide them to a better financial solution which we help them implement.

Perhaps we can help yours…

It’s Time to Start College Applications

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Now you’re a high school senior.

Congrats!

Completing those college applications is just another task in an already overwhelming schedule…

An application is designed to help you showcase who you are beyond test scores and grades; it’s designed to help you enlighten your schools of interest, amplifying the reasons they should want to admit you.

Thankfully, schools request practically the same information…

The applications request general facts about you (e.g., name, address, SSN, test scores, etc.)…

The want to know who you are (e.g., through a personal essay, list of extracurriculars and achievements, work experience)…

Don’t attack an application immediately, review each portion thoroughly, and note instructions and deadlines

Complete everything; leaving a space blank may delay the admission decision.

If you have a question, ask for help. An admission counselor, a teacher, your parent, even your guidance counselor may be able to assist.

We can help, as well. Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance with this and other stages of your family’s college planning campaign.

How American Families Pay for College

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Sallie Mae, the largest loan collector in the United States, publishes the results of an annual study it performs.

A couple of points the survey made JUMP OUT!

First, parent income and savings for college is down 6% year-over-year. Second, student borrowing is up 6% year-over-year.

But, most importantly…

One action many families aren’t undertaking, however, is developing a plan to pay for college. Even though nine in 10 surveyed said they anticipated college attendance since their child was in pre-school, less than half (42%) said they made a plan to pay for it.

Clearly, parents KNOW they need to be planning for college; but, they aren’t doing it until the very last minute…

Human nature at its finest!

Then, parents engage our services at the last minute, in a panic..

We show parents the problem: college costs are out of control; no one saves enough money; it’s a complicated process; it’s easy to make mistakes; and, PLUS loans are not the answer.

The solution?

Our services and our financial solutions…

Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting in your family’s college planning campaign.

Applying Early Admission: A Good Strategic Move?

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Though applying early admission seems tempting, don’t make the decision lightly.

Sure – – the application and admission stress might be over before the holidays; but, will it be a good strategic move for your student and family?

Before “blindly” making a decision or basing the choice purely on emotion, consider the following:

  1. Are course grades and ACT / SAT test scores completely satisfactory? If not, it may be advisable to use the fall to improve either or both.
  2. Has everything desired in a school been identified? If a school hasn’t truly been researched with more than a single visit or two, it may be better to take the time to discover what’s really needed and/or desired in a school.
  3. Will substantial financial aid be needed? It may be better for your student and family to be able to compare aid awards from multiple schools, thereby preserving the option to negotiate for more aid from the schools in which you’re most interested.

Early Decision is binding. You may only apply to a single school for early admission. If accepted, and the school provides a sufficient award package, you must attend.

Early Action is not binding. You may apply elsewhere and are not obligated to attend if accepted.

So… Will applying early boost chances of admission?

Although it shows the schools you are interested, many highly qualified and recruited students apply early, making the chances of early admission almost as competitive as the regular application process.

Shouldn’t you just “get it over with?”

Certainly, doing so may relieve some stress from the process. But, a much bigger payoff may await from taking the time to properly researching and applying to other schools. Especially, if your student ends up at the school which is truly the best one for him or her..

If your family has the financial means to cover most of the school’s cost-of-attendance and/or there really in no choice, as your student will be attending the school which the family has always attended, then utilizing the early admission process may be the most strategic decision for your family.

But, if circumstances are otherwise, your family may be better served by contacting our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting in your family’s college planning campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Financial Aid: What is it?

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While very few families pay “sticker price” for a college education, over 80% of family’s do overpay.

They overpay for a variety of reasons, one of which is the failure to properly understand financial aid.

Financial aid arrives in a variety of ways: grants; scholarships; awards, loans; and, jobs. Some aid is need-based, while other is merit-based.

Need-based is awarded solely on a family’s ability to cover the cost-of-attendance. Merit-based is awarded based on other factors, such as academic performance.

Will all aid received reduce the family’s portion of the cost-of-attendance?

Only gift aid (e.g., grants, scholarships, awards) reduces the cost dollar-for-dollar; most self-help aid (e.g., work-study, loans) helps cover the cost with a family’s resources. Gift aid need not be repaid, most self-help aid must be repaid.

Schools award the vast majority of aid to students of families with financial need. To qualify for merit-based aid, students must demonstrate academic achievement, high scores on standardized tests, and/or extraordinary or unique talents or accomplishments.

Need-based aid is determined through a review of a family’s financial information, usually submitted via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For a few hundred schools, additional financial information is obtained through a form called the CSS Profile.

Don’t be one of the 80%+ of families that overpay for a 4-year undergraduate education. Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance in designing and implementing your family’s college planning campaign.

A Horrible Way to Fill the College Tuition Gap

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Can you identify the trap?

Which of the following options would best help you and your family cover your portion of the annual cost-of-attendance at your child’s school of choice?

  1. Student loans;
  2. Parent PLUS Loans; or,
  3. Home equity.Well… of course… it depends.

Unfortunately, after student loans have been maxed out, more often than not, parents assume that PLUS loans are the only choice.

That’s the trap!

PLUS loan payments start small, slowly pulling you in.

Manageable at the beginning, they grow quickly, becoming unmanageable.

Perhaps one of the most important facets of the solutions we propose to families is challenging the assumption that PLUS loans may be the only way.

PLUS loans are a recipe for disaster!

If PLUS loans are off the table, what should parents do?

Work with our Professional College Planners to design and implement a well-designed solution that incorporates and addresses college expenses, cash flow and liquidity, and retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Your College Admissions Résumé

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Whether it be for schools or scholarships, an effective résumé can be of great benefit to you in the application process.

Now, schools don’t want a laundry list of achievement. Rather, they want a highlight of accomplishments.

How can an effective resume help you?

It will help you become more efficient in completing applications, ensuring items of importance are not forgotten.

It will remind the teachers you’ve asked for recommendations of your high school accomplishments.

It can help guide conversation during a college admissions interview.

It can be adapted for interviews, whether for work or for internships.

So, where do you start?

Set aside time to consider your high school accomplishments, listing all awards, leadership roles, community service, special talents or hobbies, jobs, projects you led, etc. Include experiences demonstrating determination, initiative, and passion. Don’t leave anything out.

What should you include in the “final” version?

Don’t include GPA or test scores, as they’ll be on your transcript.

Include your most impressive accomplishments: high achievements and honors; major leadership roles and initiatives; unusual, but impressive activities, experiences, and skills that few may have; work experience, if it required a significant amount of time outside school; and, special circumstances that may have prevented extracurricular participation.

How should it be organized?

The header should include your full name, address, phone number, and high school.

It should be easy to scan and no more than two pages. Categories should include: activities and work; honors and awards; and, other experiences and skills.

A second version of your resume to be used for scholarship applications should include your GPA (both weighted and unweighted) and your standardized test scores.

For assistance with all aspects of your college planning campaign, including aspects of which you may not be aware, contact our Professional College Planners to schedule your family’s first campaign meeting.

What’s More Important than Saving for a Child’s College Education?

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Every generation strives to provide better for their children.

Saving for a child’s college education typically sits high on the list of parent’s goals.

While important, it may not one of the more important goals.

Conventional thought suggests three other milestones that must first be met before saving for college.

First, create an emergency fund.

Nowadays, it seems that most money allocated for college savings is place in 529 Plans. While they provide tax advantages, using the funds for other than post-secondary education expenses comes with a price – income tax, plus a penalty.

By allocating much of your savings to 529 Plans, not only have you ceded control over the money, you may not have enough elsewhere in the event unexpected expenses arise.

An emergency fund or, at the very least, asset liquidity, should be a top financial priority. Such a fund acts as a cushion, helping your family weather the unexpected.

Next, reduce short-term debt.

Save through interest fee reduction.

Create a debt repayment plan that efficiently, systematically reduces debt in a family-favored manner.

Finally, save for retirement.

If you’re not preparing for retirement, you’re placing yourself at risk. Retirement savings must cover a much longer period than the period college savings will need to cover.

Taking care of personal financial needs first may be one of the most selfless actions a parent can take. By addressing your needs first, you may not need to worry about your children supporting you in the future.

It’s funny how conventional thought has us focus on one obstacle at a time, especially when a holistic approach better serves the families with whom we work.

For a college funding solution designed specifically for your family, contact our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting of your campaign!