Walking the tightrope of College Financial Aid: A balancing act for parent and child.
Today, I have a special guest post from Jen McMahon at All Star Financial Aid. Last week I shared my family’s personal experience with Jen (here). She has shared with us some incredible information to get your family talking about the financial aspect of going to college.
Starting the conversation on College Finances
Typically I work with two kinds of families on financial aid. The type of family where the parents take care of everything and the student is clueless on expenses. Mommy and Daddy just work it out. Then there is the family that says Johnny is 18 he is an adult now, he can pay for college. I cringe at both.
In the first example, where the parents complete everything for the child, that child who is quickly becoming an adult isn’t learning anything. They may be taking out loans that they didn’t even know about. Isn’t going to college about learning? We expect our children to go off to school and become responsible, but yet we aren’t providing them real life experiences that will guide them in becoming the adult they were meant to be. I know it takes more time to teach someone the process, than just do it yourself, but you’re missing the point. Let me tell you it’s worth the time. Our children from a young age are learning math, science, language, physical education, music, but I can probably tell you they don’t know the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. This is your opportunity to include your child on this sometimes painful journey of “real life” finances.
One the other hand the families who leave it all to the child, just leave them out to dry. Many parents balk at the idea of paying a monthly payment for their child to go to college. I am at the stage of my life where I have many friends that put their children in day care and often that price tag is well over $1000 per month, but when we think of college, “Nope my kid is on his/her own.” Are you saying you don’t want them to have the best college experience possible? Have you told your child early so that they could have saved along the way? Have you prepared them their whole life for paying for their own college?
Now, I don’t want to blast parents, because society doesn’t place an importance on this. Also, to become a Financial Aid expert is really hard to do. The Federal Student Aid Handbook is about 1200 pages long. Even as Financial Aid Professionals we don’t get it right all the time. New regulations or changes to the Handbook are made every day. So my number one piece of advice is to talk with your student as a family and share your plan, or actually create a plan together. It is never too early or late to talk about college finances as a family. We talk to our children about sex, but do we actually talk with them about their future or money?
Where do we start?
I have compiled a list of questions that you and your family should go over so everyone is on the same page when you begin looking at a College or University. Then when Financial Aid season comes around there isn’t awkwardness during the conversation. You will hold all of the cards and know what you are playing with.
- What kind of Institution does your student want to attend?
- Private 4 year or 2 year
- Public 4 year or 2 year
- For profit
- Community College
- Christian University, State University, Liberal Arts
- Parents, what expectations did you have for your child? Are they reasonable or attainable? Is this what the student wants for themselves? (This is the time to change expectations if they do not match the child’s.)
- What does the student want to major in? Where do they see themselves when they graduate? Do they want to continue on to get a Master’s or Doctorate degree?
- How do you plan on paying for your college? Is it realistic?
- Veteran’s Benefits
- Savings Accounts
- Prepaid Accounts
- 529 Plans, IRA
- Grandma and Grandpa
- Monthly Payment Plans
- Parent Loans
- Student Loans
- Alternative Loans
- What is expected from the Student?
- Do they need to take out Student Loans
- Make monthly payments
- Work a summer job
- Work during the school year
- Maintain a certain GPA
Each family has different family dynamics so different topics could arise from this start to a conversation. You could be a part of a mixed family, divorced family, or single parents so communication is the key. Remember that the student is first and foremost your child. If there are issues with the other parent leave it between you two, come together for the student. This should be the most exciting time of your child’s life so get the hard stuff out of the way first.
Talk about finances, make a plan, have a goal, and have fun!
Click over and see all the Jen has to offer. www.allstarfinancialaid.com
I strongly recommend All Star Financial Aid because I believe you will come out better financially. Jen will give you information that will save you money, probably thousands of dollars. And the best part, if they do not save you at least $500 they will return the fee you paid to them. There is no way to lose. If you use the code, “recruitingcode” you will receive 20% off at checkout.
Keep in the Conversation,