Let’s face it- no matter where you go for college or post-secondary education, it’s expensive. Very few families have thousands of dollars in their back pockets. In order to maximize your ability to pay for post-secondary education, we suggest the following steps:
1. Save for post-secondary education from DAY ONE (or, as soon as you can)! 529 Savings Plans are a great week to begin saving for college and receive state tax benefits on top of it! Simply start an account and have an amount withdrawn automatically each month. Even if it doesn’t completely fund your student’s education, it is MONEY THEY WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY BACK.
2. Begin doing your research EARLY! Families often wait until the end of their student’s junior year or even beginning of senior year to think about the right post-secondary “fit” and how to pay for it. Exploring careers and college majors freshman year or even earlier can greatly help in creating a viable plan that will contribute to long-term success. A great book to read is The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaugnessy.
3. File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This is a MUST for ANYONE possibly needing any federal or state aid, including grants, work-study, and loans. This is completed the year before beginning college and every year in college thereafter. For a six-step process to filing the FAFSA, see here.
4. Apply for scholarships, especially local ones. Many students feel the time and effort to apply for scholarships isn’t worth it. Our response is, if you spent 10 hours applying for scholarships and only received one for $500.00, you still MADE $50.00 a hour! Again, this is money that does not have to be paid back. Students can find local scholarships (best since there are less applicants) posted on our senior Schoology page and national or even international scholarships from reputable websites such as scholarships.com, fastweb.com, chegg.com, cappex.com, raise.me, jlvcollegecounseling.com, and coursehero.com.
Other Helpful Resources:
- USDOE College Affordability and Transparency Center
- How to create your FSA ID
- FAFSA checklist
- Link to INvested (formally ISM College Planning): https://www.investedindiana.org/