One of the most daunting parts of the college application process can be the search for financial aid. The question of how you and your parents will be able to afford college can often seem to be one that can’t be answered easily. However, by arming yourself with knowledge about the types of financial aid available, the requirements each type has, and what you can do to improve your financial aid prospects, you’ll easily be able to win the financial aid battle.
In part 1, we talked about the different types of financial aid available. In part 2, we talked about different types of loans. In part 3, we talked about grants and scholarships, and how you can start investigating these options. Today, in the final installment of this series, we'll talk about what you and your parents can do to help lighten the college cost load.
The financial aid search shouldn’t be limited to just your parents. In fact, the more you help your parents out, the better your chances will be of finding more sources of funding for your education. Consider the following:
- Open a Upromise account. Upromise is a company that helps you earn money as you spend money on everyday items. They have partnered with more than 600 online stores, 8,000+ restaurants, and thousands of grocery and drugstore item providers, and every time you make an eligible purchase, their partners return a portion of that money back to you. Those earnings accumulate in your Upromise account until you decide to use it to invest in a College 529 plan, which you can then use to help pay down eligible student loans or assist with college expenses. Even better, you and your parents are not the only ones who can “earn” for you. Other family members and friends can do it, too. To learn more, go to www.upromise.com.
- Have your parents invest in a 529 Plan (the sooner, the better!). A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution, which is designed to help your parents set aside money for your college education. They can put money into the fund however often they want, and this money is invested in ways that make it grow over time. Almost every state and many financial and educational institutions have 529 Plans available. Have you parents contact your state’s Department of Higher Education to learn what they can do to start one. The earlier they start one, the more money they can save!
- Be proactive in your scholarship search. Use all the tools at your disposal to search for as many scholarship and grant opportunities as possible.
- Boost your standardized test (SAT and ACT) scores. Many universities base “partial” and “full-ride” scholarships based on your SAT or ACT scores. Check with the schools you’re interested in and ask if they provide these kinds of merit based scholarships—and then study hard for your tests to get the scores you need.
- Have your parents talk to schools directly once you get financial aid offers. Often, if you have multiple financial aid offers from various schools, you can ask schools to match another school’s offer. Compare financial aid offers and have your parents contact the Financial Aid Office of the schools you are interested in to see if they can match other schools’ funding.
- Keep looking for money, even the summer before you go off to school. Just because you’ve gotten the acceptance letter in the mail and have finalized “institutional” funding, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other scholarships and grants out there still available. Continue your search throughout the summer to make sure you get as much as you can!
To see the other posts in this series, click on the links below:
- What You And Your Parents Should Know About College Financial Aid - Part 1: Types of Financial Aid
- What You And Your Parents Should Know About College Financial Aid - Part 2: Loans
- What You And Your Parents Should Know About College Financial Aid - Part 3: Scholarships and Grants
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