My last article discussed the First 5 Steps in College Planning. This article is more focused on parents whose kids are teenagers and/or entering high school. It is during these four years that you might be able to save just as much money in scholarships and grants as you might be short in your planning. Here are the steps:
1. Take the PSAT for practice – The PSAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Juniors who do well on the test may be Honorable Mention or Semi-Finalists. Semi-Finalists then take the SAT to sort of verify the PSAT results. Those who do well can be designated finalists. Many schools have scholarships for finalists.
2. Talk to Your Guidance Counselor – The high school guidance counselor may have a lot of information on scholarships. They may know about miscellaneous scholarships other students have received in the past. They also have experience with the FAFSA.
3. Pick Your School – Don’t assume private schools will be more than public schools. Many private schools have more scholarships available
4. Work With Financial Aid Departments – Schools will review FAFSA to determine need. They will determine which school scholarships are available as well as work study. Generally, if a school accepts you, they want to help you find the money to attend.
5. Pay Attention to Deadlines – The FAFSA has both a “Don’t apply before” and a traditional deadline. Early decision applications and regular applications have different deadlines for different schools. There are a myriad of other scholarships available and they each have their own deadlines. Some applications (school or scholarship) may require recommendations. If so, make sure the people writing them get them in on time.
6. Talk With Your Advisor/Accountant – There are several tax breaks that you may qualify for if you pay for expenses out of pocket. If part of your savings is in a taxable account, you may qualify for these breaks.