Since going to college isn't free, it's important to know how you and/or your child are going to pay for school and what steps can be taken in order to get student aid. Here are some tips that you and your child need to know to be financially prepared for college.
1. Have your child submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year of his college career. Even if you think your child won't qualify for aid, he must still submit the FAFSA in order to receive non-need based awards, such as the Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. Make sure your child submits a FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 each year. It can be submitted online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
2. Tell your child's financial aid administrator about any unusual family financial circumstances. This may include high medical expenses not covered by insurance, recent unemployment, or disability/death of a wage earner. The financial aid administrator may exercise professional judgment and change elements in the federal need analysis to account for circumstances that he feels have not been adequately considered in your child's original FAFSA.
3. Attend a financial aid workshop with your child at his high school or local college. This will allow you to speak one-on-one with a professional and ask any questions you may have.
4. Have your child search for scholarships early. Many scholarships have early deadlines. Your child shouldn't miss out on a scholarship just because he began his search too late. Perform a free scholarship search and register for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship.
5. Check to see if your (or your spouse's) employer offers company-sponsored tuition plans. Not only will many employers invest in the education of their employees, but many will also offer assistance to the children of their employees.
6. Save money. It's never too late to start saving for college. There are several avenues you could take when you start saving for your child's education. Look into 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, and credit card rebate and affinity programs.
These are just a few tips that should help you and your child get financially ready for college. The key is to start early and remember deadlines.