As I mentioned in a previous post, October is the time of year for families with high school seniors to file for financial aid. Families should be filling out their FAFSA and CSS Profile (where applicable), and it can be more stressful than filing a tax return. Given how complicated the process is and the need to reveal your financial life to strangers, no one would blame you for not wanting to participate. I meet parents every year that are hesitant to complete the forms; many are opposed to disclosing financial information as a matter of principle. And the emotions run the gamut. Fear, intimidation, frustration, pressure – even embarrassment – are common emotions for parents who NEED to file these documents accurately and on time in a busy, fast-paced world. And many of them are stressed as they wonder if they can keep the promise they made to their child and themselves – the dream of going to college. Filing this paperwork is, often times, their moment of truth as they face this reality. To that end, here are a few thoughts to consider:
Financial aid is a tool that can and should be leveraged. You’ve paid into the system every year you’ve paid taxes, and you’ve earned the right to use it to your advantage.
Filing for financial aid increases the probability of merit-based aid at schools where your student falls into the top quartile (based on GPA, test scores and transcript) of students admitted to the freshman class.
Financial aid can improve your cash flow during college years, allowing you to stay on track for retirement and maintain your current lifestyle.
You are in no way obligated to take an offer of financial aid. You can accept all, some, or none of what is awarded to your student.
Why not give yourself as many options as possible and make an informed decision?
Every family should apply for financial aid, but the reasons for filing will be quite different depending on your individual financial situation. Sadly, it is often those that would benefit the most that are intimidated by the complexity of the FAFSA and CSS Profile process that abandon the effort, costing them dearly. And families that may not think they’re eligible should also take on this administrative challenge because they stand a strong chance of increasing their eligibility for free money because they’re opening the financial kimono.
Remember that college is a six-figure investment.
The time and money you invest now will be well worth the money saved on this critical phase of the process.
If you need help navigating the financial aid process, you can visit our College Planning Services page.