Every family with a student in college (post-secondary education) is confronted with their own “cost-of-attendance” expenses. The fact-of-the-matter is, these bills must be paid in a timely manner. These outlays typically run between $8,000 and $70,000 per child/per year. The question at hand today is not so much where does one get money for college, but that of “how”. Understanding the dynamics of the “how” is the first step in obtaining money for college.
Scholarship and grant funding are the two most sought-after financial resources for paying college expenses. Neither of these need to be paid back. Let’s take an abbreviated look at both.
Scholarships are awarded based on the meritocracy principle. The more “talent” the student brings to the college, the more the college will typically reach into their endowment resources to attract the student. We use the word “talent” to refer to the contribution your child would likely make in a certain field or discipline. For example, if this is a math program, then the talent is a “high aptitude in math”. If the program is sports related, then the talent would be “being able to run fast or throw the football with great accuracy”. Each college or department within a college is looking to attract students they consider to be a “worthwhile investment”. The more talent your child brings, the more “worthwhile” they are to the department. This attraction or enticement consists, in part, by paying a larger portion of the student’s cost-of-attendance expenses.
There are many talented students. One of the keys to getting scholarship funding is to make sure the college knows your child is interested in their program at an early age. It is easy to reach out to a perspective college to express interest in one of their academic program. Colleges keep track of which students are in contact with them. The principle here is this: the longer the decision-making process has been, the higher the quality of the college-decision will be. Remember: colleges award money to people they know and trust. If they don’t know your student, why would they bestow upon him/her a scholarship?“How to make College Affordable” Course Colleges spend millions of dollars in marketing; many qualified high school students receive invitations to visit when they are middle school. These invitations are sent because your child has been recognized as a potentially “good” perspective student. These invitations typically go unnoticed, often because the colleges sending these invitations are unfamiliar to you. Yet, these colleges frequently have endowment resources to entice your student into attending.
Grant funding typically has its roots in “financial need”. Financial need is demonstrated by having a (relative) low EFC (Expected Family Contribution) in relation to the cost-of-attendance. In many cases, the “how” to obtaining more grant funding lies in filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) correctly. In filing the FAFSA incorrectly, your student inadvertently appears wealthier than what he/she is, i.e., they have more financial resources to pay for college than they possess.
The most common type of grant is the so-called Pell Grant. The most a student can be award in a Federal Pell Grant for the 2017-18 school year is $5,920. In addition, there is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG); the maximum amount for this grant is $4,000.
In addition, some grants are distributed at the State or Institutional level. Often these grants require a level of academic excellence. Demonstrating a “good” grade point average can be key in obtaining more grant funding.
Obtaining more funding for college is often a complex dynamic. Most parents leave money-on-the-table simply because they do not understand the “how”. We purposefully say “parents” because, in most cases, the financial implications are better understood by parents than by a 17 or 18-year-old.
Colleges are not inclined to award more free money to a student when the household is willing to pay more. As parents, you are most often the ones who need to be clear on how to get more money for college and then to execute an effective strategy.
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