OK, I hate those “back in my day” stories just as much as you do (when I became a Dad, I swore I would NEVER tell them!). However, back in my day, college wasn’t something that you paid for until the day you died. Your parents saved up, and if you were lucky, you got a scholarship here and there. That was it. At the end of four years, you were smarter, and everything was paid off.
Boy, have times changed!
Today, two-thirds of college students have to take out loans to pay for their education, and the average borrower graduates with close to $27,000 in debt! Right now, the standard repayment schedule is 10 years – meaning that your kids will likely have kids of their own before their college tuition is paid for!
Wouldn’t it be nice to help them come up with a payment plan that doesn’t need to be paid back (and, no, I’m not talking about winning the lottery, suddenly agreeing to a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, or going on a bank robbing spree).
Instead, your kids can get scholarships and grants. Neither has to be paid back. But to get them, you (and your kids) will have to do some work now, before they head off to school.
To make things easier, follow these tips:
1. Fill out a FAFSA
That’s the form that determines whether or not your kids are eligible for federal aid (like Pell Grants). Even if you know your kids don’t qualify, you’ve got to fill this form out.
Many scholarship and grant applications will require you to have a FAFSA form on file. If you miss the FAFSA deadline, you won’t be able to apply for the financial aid opportunities that you DO qualify for!
2. Start early
Most scholarship and grant application deadlines are several months before the school year starts, so the sooner you start, the better. You’re much better off having too much time to prepare than to realize your financial aid ship has sailed!
3. Look locally
Odds are your town’s Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, churches, and even local banks all have scholarships – and they’ll have a much smaller pool of applicants than state and national scholarship programs. While the amounts won’t be as high as the big-name scholarships, every little bit counts!
4. Talk to your specific school
If your kids have already been accepted somewhere, find out what kinds of scholarship and grant opportunities exist for their students. Again, the pool of applicants will be smaller. If you want to narrow down the pool even further, you might be able to narrow opportunities down by your child’s specific major!
5. Never pay for financial aid opportunities
There are lots of scammers out there trying to prey on desperate people like you. You’ll NEVER have to pay to apply for a legitimate scholarship or grant opportunity!