Where Do I Start?
As a parent, one of the scariest things to consider is how you're going to pay for college for your children. According to the College Board Annual Survey in 2016, the average annual cost for a four-year public college was $20,090. The average annual cost for a four-year private college was $45,370. This cost includes tuition and fees, as well as room and board. You know in most cases, you won't be able to foot the bill for 100% of the cost, so how do you go about getting financial aid for your child?
Financial aid comes in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study jobs. There are three basic sources of aid:
- Federal and state governments
- Private organizations
To give your child the best chance for all available aid, start by having him/her complete the FAFSA - the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Submitting this application gives you access to the largest pool of financial aid dollars and loans with the best terms. The FAFSA opens on October 1 each year and you should complete your FAFSA as early as possible. Click here for tips on completing the FAFSA. Be sure to have your tax records and financial documents handy.
The second-largest pool of money comes from colleges, which may require you to fill out the FAFSA, the PROFILE or their own forms.
Finally, aid from private organizations is definitely worth researching and applying for, but it's unlikely to be your main source of college money. Be strategic in completing these applications - you are more likely to get a local scholarship than a national one. And never pay for a scholarship search service - there are plenty of free tools out there.
To calculate your estimated college savings plan, use our online calculator.
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