Financial Aid Musts as Another School Year Begins

Last Minute Tips for High School and College Students

As another school year begins, parents and students everywhere are saying goodbye to each other. You want to impart every last bit of advice, and it always seems like there is something more. This year the “one more thing” for parents might be to remind their student to file the FAFSA early.

Most parents understand the heartbreak of watching their child head off to kindergarten. As the years progress, though, it doesn’t really get any easier.

There is a sense of pride combined with wondering if you have taught them everything they need to know. By high school, hopes for the future burn bright as everyone starts thinking about college. And then it’s suddenly here, and you’re dropping your “baby” off at the dorm. Before you get into the emotion of sending your student off to school, here are a few last-minute financial aid tips to keep in mind:

High School Juniors

Parents and juniors need to sit down now, talk about the entire process, discuss budgets, start learning about financial aid, research student loan options, and begin looking for scholarships. You may need to schedule those road trips much earlier than anticipated.

High School Seniors

If you haven’t started the college application process yet, you could already be behind. Establish your FSA ID now and start gathering your documentation. You want to get it done as soon as possible so you don’t lose out on any financial aid eligibility.

This year you might even think about completing it before you have all your college applications submitted. Although the FAFSA will be online for some time, though, it is crucial that you check the individual website of each college to determine their financial aid deadline.

College Freshmen

It’s not too late to have a frank money discussion with your college freshman.

Stress budgeting, and talk about the downfalls associated with the use of “easy” credit. If you took out student loans to pay for this school, the student must understand that those funds are not to be used for everyday expenses. Listen closely to the way you student talks about money, and look for any signs of a struggle so you can cut off any trouble before it even starts. And be sure that you are all prepared to fill out the FAFSA (yes again), to determine eligibility for their sophomore year.

College Sophomores and Juniors

Mark it on your calendar and be prepared to move up the date to complete the FAFSA to lock in next year’s financial aid eligibility.

College Grads 

Just so you don’t feel left out, the one last thing for you is to start thinking about repaying your student loans. They will start coming due before you realize it, and you definitely need to have a solid plan in place to make sure you are capable of making the necessary monthly payments. If you do not yet have a job, or are not earning the salary you anticipated, you need to learn about possible deferment options or study the income-based repayment plans.

You want your children to have a certain amount of independence, but it’s still your job to teach them about the real world of money.

Making decisions about which college your student can afford, learning to maximize financial aid, and handling money responsibly are valuable life lessons.