College Costs HOW Much?! Financial Aid Tips to Prevent You from Losing Your Mind

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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.
 
Why?
 
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!
 

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College hunting: The Excel File

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College hunting is serious business. State of the art gyms and dining commons have allure, but do the academic challenges rise above? Use one Excel file to keep yourself in line and organize deal breakers and shiny attractions of the Universities at the top of your list. Then, navigate overwhelming University websites with ease and focus. These tips will leave you calm, cool, and collected in the midst of accumulating brochures and looming decisions.

College Visits: Be There to Show You Care

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Oh, the joys of college visits. Parents drive for hours while their teenager snores in the backseat until they reach the campus. Then they attend an informational meeting led by a peppy college student who is employed by the admissions office, and this person cleverly highlights the college’s bright spots and manages to answer any question thrown his or her way, even if the answer has little to do with what was asked. Parents listen intently, especially when tuition is mentioned, and the potential students yawn and glance at cell phones. After a half hour or so, everyone is whisked away to tour the campus, which, they are assured, is the most picturesque, the most accessible, the safest, the greenest, etc. Tour guides point to buildings and give them apparently meaningful names and present a recently cleaned dorm room to the group’s inspection.

Making time for your Kids

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Developing a strategy for becoming a better dad can sound like a big joke. To use the term “busy dad” in the current world is really an understatement. A lot of us dads have a difficult time trying to balance our professional or personal demands against spending valuable time with the wife and kids too. Just because your schedule is tight should not mean that you are destined to fail as a parent. 

School's Out - What To Do Now?

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School’s out, for summer! School’s out forever! Well, school might not actually be out forever as the 1970s Alice Cooper rock classic declared, but if you’ve grown to accustomed to your free time during the last academic year, it might feel that way during the summer months. So what’s a parent to do now that you have to once again entertain, inspire and occupy the eager minds of a child who’s on summer vacation? How can you once again fill 24 hours and seven days a week with your child?

Your Kids' Bedrooms -- Cool Themes Are Easier Than You Think!

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Kids' décor? Let's face it. We dads aren't Martha Stewart. We don't have craft parties, we don't sit around watching HGTV (at least so far as our wives know), and we don't know the first thing about color palettes.

But we do want our kids to have cool bedrooms. Why? Their bedrooms are their first "territory", the first flag they plant in the ground of independence. Having that bit of control can be the same feeling of sanctuary that we feel when we soak up that extra hour of sleep on a Sunday morning, or flip on that Chuck Norris movie as a guilty pleasure.

So, when your toddler proudly proclaims that he's a "big kid", here's how you can turn his baby's room into a cool big kid sanctuary -- all without losing your mind!

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