This is part of a sponsored collaboration with The College Board and DiMe Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
If you have children, family members, or relatives who are close to college age or getting there, this topic is definitely one I think you should be interested in. If not for your own benefit, at the very least to pass this information along to someone who might be able to use it.
I’m talking about financial aid for higher education, of course.
In one form or another, a little help when it comes to paying for college courses can almost always go a long way. Especially considering the average financial aid award in the 2014-2015 school year was $14,210. Not too shabby eh? There’s actually about $184 billion in financial aid available right now. You can pay for a lot of books and classes with that dollar amount!
But for most the biggest challenge is actually going through the application process. It’s a little cumbersome, and when you’re unfamiliar with the overall process it can be a little confusing to say the least. I myself – as one of the first to graduate from college in my family – never applied for any form of financial aid. Not because I didn’t know it was available, but because I just didn’t want to bother with the application process.
Thankfully, I was working full time already and was able to pay for my own tuition without having to take out any college loans either. By the time I selected a major my then employer had a tuition reimbursement program in place that allowed me to be refunded for every single penny I paid up front. Yeah, I was pretty lucky. I can’t even imagine being buried under student loans for years or decades.
Now that Edgar is getting ready to start high school it really is time for us to make concrete plans towards his college education. Besides honing down on which school he’ll be attending, we’ll definitely be applying for financial aid. As have my nieces and nephews who have already graduated from high school and are currently enrolled in university.
It just makes sense to do so.
So how do you do it? Well, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. You can do that at fafsa.gov. You’ll need your latest tax returns, but it’s never too early to get the ball rolling. In fact, the earlier you start the application process the better. You can get a jump on other financial aid applications (state or institutional aid) that may have early deadlines.
Before you apply, you’ll need to create a FSA ID and collect the documents you need to get started. To learn more about paying for college, including finding scholarships visit BigFuture or download the CollegeGo app. Students can use BigFuture to search for and compare colleges, find scholarships, understand financial aid, navigate the college application process from start to finish, and receive personalized deadline reminders, tips, and guidance along the way.
The CollegeGo mobile app guides students through the essential steps in the college application process with an interactive interface that uses game, video, and search features to help students plan their college journeys.
Spanish-language resources for parents and families are also available. The Family Action Plan_11th Grade Spanish and the Family Action Plan_12th Grade Spanish are a great start.
But remember, the most important step is completing your application at fafsa.gov.
Now go and apply or share this information with someone you know!