Finding Financial Aid without Losing Your Mind

It is almost April and you are likely feeling this mixture of intense emotions.  Your child has earned admission to college but wait, it costs WHAT?  After the initial celebratory dance, you are confronted with the grim reality of the net cost of this achievement. Despite your responsible actions, (you saved, you applied for financial aid), this year is not going to be easy for any college payer. Before full panic sets in and you do anything, take a deep breath. There are things you can do, even at this stage, to enable the realization of academic dreams without losing your  integrity, your temper, or your even your mind.

Don't lose your integrity! Are you wondering what I meant by not losing your integrity? Well this one reality really sticks in my craw, (and that is not my first choice of a euphemism).  While there are financial aid planners out there that operate by the highest code of ethics, (like me), there are far more that make the whole lot of us seem suspect. This contrasting group of financial advisory professionals recommend things like hiding income and shifting assets to non interest bearing accounts, (which by no coincidence, pay a nice commission). These energy and time-consuming paper acrobatics rarely result in increased grant eligibility and by the way, lying on the FAFSA is a federal offense.

Don't lose your temper! If you did apply for financial aid, don't pick up the phone to rant about how impossible this situation is for your family and how the school will be the loser if your child can't afford to attend, (which of course is true). Financial aid offices are working under the deposit deadline with federal rules about money. The financial aid office cannot consider anything other than financial drivers like changes in asset values, losses of assets, loss of job, increases in non discretionary expenses like dependent or elder care, or dramatic changes in family status, (divorce or death). Consumer debt resulting from poor budgeting is not a basis for professional judgment to increase eligibility.

Don't lose your mind! Speaking of that word, budgeting, this is the time to do it, regardless of whether or not you applied for financial aid. How much of your monthly income are you utilizing for living expenses? The remainder, and there needs to be a remainder!, is what can be utilized for current college costs or repayment on supplemental loans for education.  Keep in mind that any loan debt service is going to be increasing each year of college, for each of your children, and that interest only payments are not a long term strategy. If that made you feel like you might lose your mind, email!

Tags: communication, outcomes, college, financial aid process, financing options, admissions process, applying to college, fafsa, financial aid administrators, financial aid consulting

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