Financial Planning for College Overview
It is never too early to start planning for a child’s college education. Each fall, Beaver holds an information session for parents of all grades on financial planning for college.
There are a few things that all parents should do as they contemplate having to support their children through the process of a college education. Even families with modest incomes who may anticipate generous financial aid packages should do the following:
Begin Saving Early
Any reputable accountant or financial planner will be able to recommend specific kinds of savings or investment plans for educational purposes. The Massachusetts Educational Finance Authority (MEFA) will provide this advice—and much more—at no charge.
Understand the Process
Applying for financial aid requires the completion of a good deal of paperwork. Know which forms to fill out and how and when to do this. Use resources such as MEFA or specific colleges’ financial aid offices for help in working through this part of the process (see section below). In the fall of each year we hold an evening seminar for parents from all grades to familiarize them with the process, the terminology, and the forms.
Do not believe everything you hear from friends or see in the media about affording college; do your own research to determine what your family’s particular options and opportunities might be.
Be Open from the Beginning
Be open with your child from the beginning. Even if you do not wish to go into great detail, it is important to give your child a sense of any financial concerns or budget parameters that may affect the child’s ultimate choice of college. Do not be overly pessimistic, but try to be realistic about what might happen. At the same time, work to inform yourself of ways to expand the possibilities. In the end you may be able to comparison shop to your child’s advantage.
Applying for Financial Aid – Plan Ahead!
If you think that you will need financial aid at any time during your college years, apply as a freshman. The process may seem daunting, but we will help you. College is expensive. For many families, this will be a major and part of the application process. Request and read all materials from colleges about the policies and procedures. Note and comply with all deadlines. A missed deadline could prove costly.
Keep In Mind:
Financial aid is handled directly between the college and the applicant. The FAFSA must be filled out by everyone who requests financial aid. These forms are sent to us and can be picked up in our office.
Each college has a financial aid office which is your best source of current information, including scholarships. Call them. Initiate what may become a long-term relationship. Keep in mind that some colleges have more money to make available than others. This fact alone might heighten their attractiveness to you. If they want you, they will pay.
When considering loans, think at least four years down the road. How big a loan burden will feel comfortable?
Financial Aid Links
- Federal Student Aid Site
- MA Government Info Site for Student Loans
- MA Educational Finance Authority
- Online Financial Aid Guide
- Peterson’s Financial Aid Guide
- The Educational Resources Institute (TERI)
- Financial Aid Calculators
- Nellie Mae Loan Info
- Free Scholarship Search
- College Board’s Scholarship Search
- Fast Web Scholarships
Types of Financial Aid Forms
Free Application for Student Aid: If a student wants to receive federally funded student financial aid, he or she must complete a FAFSA. This form is used to determine what a family can pay toward postsecondary education and, in turn, a student’s financial aid eligibility. The form must be completed after January 1. Do not complete more than one FAFSA. Also, do not submit the FAFSA before January 1. Most families apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
CSS/Financial Aid Profile
Many private colleges require this form which can only be completed online at www.collegeboard.com. The College Board web site lists all colleges and scholarship programs that require the PROFILE. PROFILE registration should be completed in the fall of senior year—at least four (4) weeks before your first financial aid deadline.
Some colleges have their own aid forms in addition to the ones above. Check with each college and follow their instructions.
If your family has a special financial need or financial circumstances that are not covered on any of the forms above, write a letter describing your situation and send it to the Financial Aid offices of the colleges to which you are applying. DO NOT attach letters or tax forms, etc. to the FAFSA or PROFILE. They will be destroyed.