Three Top Application and Financial Strategies For Convincing Colleges to Grant YOUR Student More Money!

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As the year comes to a close and the holidays approach, we are reminded of the importance of family and the inherent value that parents place on securing the successful futures of their children. It is one of the most valuable parts of what we do as College Funding Professionals – helping families to achieve their goals in sending their college-bound students on to the best educational institutions possible! The fact that this is absolutely key in helping these young people to create the brightest of futures through their own hard work and academic dedication is not lost on us, either.

Of course, there are many elements to making these goals of a higher education a reality, and they are things that should ideally be planned out well in advance. However, many of the final decisions that will affect most families as far as the available financial options for college funding will be made far outside of the student’s home, in offices at the universities and colleges where they are accepted as potential incoming freshmen.

Does this mean that families and parents need to feel powerless and find themselves at the whim of the decisions made by college administrators and financial aid officers who only know them as names and numbers on a series of documents? Are tomorrow’s college students out of luck unless they happen to come from abject poverty, the “right” familial background, or have perfect grades and standardized test scores? Absolutely NOT!

This month our newsletter will focus on some of the things that families can do in advance – both with regard to college application and college finances – to help to push the college financial odds into their favor, and positively affect the decisions that will be made later. These efforts pay dividends when the time comes for the student to make a final decision on the very best place for him or her to attend college or university. As professionals in this area, we know exactly what types of details the schools tend to be looking for, and it is our pleasure this month to provide a few of the key insights into ways that families can take a measure of control over what far too many families have come to view as an almost uncontrollable situation! It is not… as long as the situation is approached systematically and appropriately, there are plenty of things that families can do to optimize their college funding standing.

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1) Apply Broadly Enough — But Without a “Shotgun” Approach

The actual college application process is that next big step and one that can be a hurdle for many. Narrowing down colleges can be difficult for some and it is hard to know many colleges are too many. There is no hard and fast rule for applying to colleges, however, most counselors recommend from five to eight schools should be sufficient. Just applying to a large number of schools does not necessarily increase your child’s chances. And, it is also a costly endeavor to apply to an inordinate number of schools.

It is important to thoroughly research each and every school. Each school will have its pros and cons. It’s very important to weigh them carefully as this may be the place your child will spend the next four years. In addition to researching online, it’s a very good idea to make a visit to the school. Often, the online description can only tell so much. Getting to the campus and getting a feel for the place and talking directly with students can reveal much more than any website can show. Look at the money required at each school, and definitely understand how much money you should be receiving in grant money for each institution on your child’s list.

As another part of the vetting process, your child will need to discover if the program that s/he is interested in is a strong one at the different schools to which s/he is applying. This will help to have this information when the narrowing of the list process begins.

Each school will be different, and again it is important to determine what the actual costs are for each institution. This will have an impact on the type of aid packages for which your child is eligible. And, it is not necessarily going to be more expensive to attend high tuition schools. Often these schools have stronger aid packages and can award your son or daughter a better deal than a less expensive school. It is good to weigh all factors and not just money. Also, remember that the ticket cost may not be the real amount required to attend.

Once the investigative phase of the schools has been completed, then you and your child will need to narrow the list down. The categories for narrowing down the list are often described as follows:

Safety Colleges – There are a good deal of academic institutions who have more flexible admissions standards. This is helpful, of course, because it ensures that most of those who apply are granted a place. It is good to have at least one safety school.

Probable Colleges – These colleges are in the ‘high probability of being accepted’ category. These are schools that your child favors and would have no problem attending. However, these colleges may not be his or her first choice of college. They are good schools but they are not on the top of the list for your child. There should be several of these options for your child to choose from.

Reach Colleges – These are colleges in which your child has a lesser chance of being accepted, but they are high on his or her list of desired colleges. The competition for these colleges is very high and the likelihood of getting a spot is lower than, of course, the probable or safety colleges. There should be at least one to two of these options for your child to consider.

Having colleges from all three groups can be important later in the process, as we will see later.

2) Make the Necessary Financial Adjustments In Advance

The financial aspect of getting a child through college is stressful for most parents. Navigating the changing and often confusing world of college financial aid can leave most parents scratching their heads. This does not have to be the case, however. Getting a child through college does not need to break the bank, deplete your savings, or saddle your child with loads of debt.

This issue is, however, preparation. Having the right kind of preparation can make all the difference to how much aid your child is granted and how much you will need to shovel out of pocket.

The best way to make this happen is to ensure you fully understand all the latest changes in legislation and how that may help or harm you. You also must know what the best strategies are and how you should position your money, your taxes, and even some major family purchases so that it has the best possible impact and provides the most options for your family during the college years.

Of course, no parent wants to dole out a lot of cash to put his or her child through school. The earlier you start, the better decisions you can make!

3) Play School Offers Against Each Other

This is a strategy that can help families use to potentially get more money for your child to attend a desired institution. It may not seem pleasant to haggle with a financial aid officer while pitting one school against the other in terms of aid packages, but it may end up benefiting your child greatly in the end.

Of course, this is a lot easier when you can play to an applicant’s strengths. It may or may not be a secret that schools reward students that excel, often regardless of their financial situation. If your child is strong academically, that can be posed that to the financial aid officers. Or, especially if your child has received a bigger aid package from another school (ideally a school of similar renown and ranking), we can help families to inform the financial aid office about these details and request for a similar or even more competitive package. This is remarkably effective when managed properly!

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Working together with an experienced and insightful college funding professional can help families to make these types of important adjustments smoothly and effectively, but there can be no question about the fact that it helps (a LOT) when parents begin the process as soon as possible. We have worked with parents whose students are just starting high school, and we can confirm that it is a whole lot easier to plan and make these changes years in advance, than it is to work with families who start the process during senior year of high school. That is not to say that we cannot help the late starters, as well, but the options are significantly more limited the later a family gets started with the process. This is one reason that we take the time to educate families in a number of different ways.

One of our finest teaching options for parents is known as our College Funding Workshop. These presentations offer first-hand details to the parents of college-bound students, as presented by excellent college funding professionals who are expert in this arena. These workshops are a great introduction to the college funding basics for parents. We would certainly welcome you to any one of our forthcoming workshops.

While there is no admission fee for these workshops, however, we must require an advance reservation because space constraints and the management of the best possible learning environment. For specific information about our workshops, or to make a reservation for a date or time, please ring our workshop crew at this number 651-455-0621.

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