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How To Prepare For Your Child's College Education

Here's Your Calendar Of Upcoming Financial Aid Events For The Next 12 Months... Dear Friend and Concerned Parent, We're constantly getting asked by parents of college-bound students, "What can I do right now to start ...

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Here's Your Calendar Of Upcoming Financial Aid Events For The Next 12 Months...

Dear Friend and Concerned Parent,

We're constantly getting asked by parents of college-bound students, "What can I do right now to start planning for my child's upcoming college education?"
We decided the best way to answer this question was to put together a "calendar" of upcoming financial aid events that will be taking place over the next 12 months.
This way, you can start your planning right away, and know exactly what you should be doing on a month-to-month basis.
So, without further ado, here's your 12-month calendar of upcoming events:

MONTH #1 - JULY 2000
Now is the time for you to sit down with your son or daughter, and decide on which schools they would like to apply to.
It's okay if your child isn't exactly sure which school he or she wants to attend yet, but it's important that you put a "wish list" of colleges and universities together that your child would consider applying to if money was not a factor.
That's right - be sure to include schools on the list that you think are "unaffordable" since in most cases, expensive private schools can end up costing the same amount of money "out-of-pocket" as a state school.
Once you've created your wish list of schools, it's time to write the college admissions offices and ask them for information on admissions, financial aid, and scholarships.

MONTH #2 - AUGUST 2000
Once you've picked the colleges and requested admissions information, it's time for you and your child to start visiting as many different college campuses as possible.
This is VERY important since your child may love the sound of a school "on paper", and absolutely hate the campus when you visit it in person.
It's important for you to find this out BEFORE you waste time and money applying to schools your child will never end up going to.
It's also a good idea to start researching and applying for private scholarships from foundations and organizations. The deadlines for applying for these awards tend to be much earlier than the deadlines for traditional financial aid so the sooner you get started, the better.
Just be aware that private scholarships only make up 1% of all funding. The other 99% comes from the Federal, state, and campus-based funds.
So, make sure you don't get obsessed looking for these funds at the expense of spending the majority of time on the other 99% of financial aid!

If you haven't already done so, now would be the time to figure out what your "Expected Family Contribution" will be,which is the minimum amount of money you will be expected to pay at any school. This way you can start saving for your minimum "out-of-pocket" expenses.
You can also start to do "income and asset planning" to set up your finances in the most favorable way legally allowable BEFORE you fill out the financial aid forms.
It's important for you to understand how the college funding formulas work in regards to valuing your home, rental properties, where to keep assets, etc.
Doing this type of planning in advance can significantly impact your eligibility for financial aid when your child starts college next September.

Now is the time to start sending in your college applications.
We strongly recommend that you do NOT apply "Early Decision" if you want to get the best possible financial aid package. THE REASON: when a college sees that you applied "Early Decision", they know they have you locked in if they accept you, and therefore have no reason to fight to win you over with a top financial aid package!
It's also a good idea to have your child re-take the SAT's again to try to increase their score. It's a well-known fact that you will get a much better financial aid package (more grants, less loans) if your child lies in the top 25% of the incoming freshman class.

Most high schools will now have copies of the FREE Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Financial Aid Profile Registration Form.
It's important that your child picks up copies of both of these forms. Specifically, they should look closely at the CSS Profile Registration Form to determine if any of the colleges thay are applying to require the Profile, and if so, what their deadline dates are for applying.
In some cases, it can be as early as November or December. So, it's important you find out when each deadline is, and get your registration form in well before the first deadline.

Do any "last-minute" income and asset planning BEFORE the end of the year.
Also, ask your accountant to help you estimate your 2000 income and tax information since you will need it to fill out the FAFSA form next month.

You must submit your FAFSA application on or immediately after January 1st, 2001.
This is the Federal financial aid application that ALL schools use to determine your eligibility for college funding.
It's okay to use estimated income and tax information when filling out this form since most people don't complete their final tax returns until April 15. Do NOT wait until then to file your financial aid forms.
Aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis - so make sure you get your forms in accurately and on-time.

Within 6-8 weeks of submitting your FAFSA form, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which gives you a calculation of your "Expected Family Contribution" based on the Federal financial aid formula There is also a section in Part II of your SAR report, which allows you to update or correct any of the information from your original FAFSA form.
Now would be the time to correct or update any estimated income or tax information, and anything else that was listed incorrectly.
After you're done updating, re-submit only Part II of the SAR so the colleges get the updated information.

MONTH #9 - MARCH 2001
Within another 4-6 weeks, you should receive an updated version of your SAR report.
Make sure everything is now correct on it, and submit a copy to all of the colleges your child applied to.

MONTH #10 - APRIL 2001
This is the month that you will start receiving award letters from all the schools your child has been accepted to.
It's important for you to review each award letter to see if you were awarded a fair package or if a school "mis-awarded" or "under-awarded" you funds. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not.
Make sure you accept all award packages BEFORE each school's deadline while you prepare to negotiate a better package at the schools that gave you unacceptable packages.

MONTH #11 - MAY 2001
Now is the time to send "letters of negotiation" to each of the schools, and to use favorable award letters from comparable schools to leverage a better financial aid package.
It's also a good idea for you to pick up the phone and plead your case directly with the Financial Aid Officer.

MONTH #12 - JUNE 2001
You're almost done, but you still have one big problem...
Even if you're lucky enough to secure a good financial aid package, you will still have to come up with enough money to cover your "EFC". For most middle and upper middle class families, your EFC can easily run you between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.
At this point, you need to make some decisons on whether you want to finance these expenses out of your current "after-tax" income, or through loans and tuition payment plans.
Also bear in mind that some loans are much more favorable than others. Be sure to research which option is best for you.
If you've made it this far, you're done for your child's freshman year.
But don't get too cozy. You have to re-apply again for the next 3 years since financial aid packages are updated every single year!
If all of this sounds overwhelming to you, please feel free to call our office at 631-864-3688. We offer a series of FREE college funding workshops to show you how to send your child to the college of their choice WITHOUT going broke.
Well, that about covers it for this month. Until next month...
Yours in College Funding Success,
Jan and Tony Esposito