Question: My daughter is a senior in high school and is preparing to head off to college. We have no money saved for her college expenses and feel like loans are the only option we have. What should we do?
College Answers: You have more options than you realize.
1) Appy Yourself for College Answers
Fill out a FAFSA application – it’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – fafsa.ed.gov. Do this even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any student aid. FAFSA weighs many different aspects of your finances including your income, your child’s income, the number of kids in college, and parents and students savings.
You’ll need to get a PIN number so you can electronically sign your FAFSA (allow a few days for that to be processed.
You’ll also need your income tax return, bank balances, investment information and your daughter’s bank balances and income tax return.
Allow a couple of days (at 2 or 3 hours per day) to complete the process.
2) Find Scholarships
Visit the Web sites of the colleges your daughter has applied to. Search the financial aid pages to find out what scholarships are offered. You’ll be amazed at the number of options. Or, talk with someone in the financial aid offices. Be prepared: These representatives usually will tell you about the loans available rather than private- and school-sponsored scholarships. You have to be determined and persistent to get college answers.
FastWeb – Online Searches
Encourage your daughter up an account at FastWeb.com. They are a great clearinghouse of thousands of scholarships. You fill out a profile—it’s extensive—and they match you up with scholarships and contests that she might be interested in. There is no charge for their services, but they do try to sell you magazines and other college-related services. Avoid the ads and get to the scholarship lists. It’s a numbers game, the more applications she fills out, the better her chance to make some dough.
Slower Offline Searches – But More Money
If you want to take a different approach to finding free money (grants and scholarships, read what we wrote about the big purple book that is full of “old money” in this blog). This money may be harder to find, but it’s just as green and there is far less competition for it.
3) Educate Yourself for College Answers
Read Ben Kaplan’s books How to Go to College Almost for Free (recently revised) and The Scholarship Scouting Report. Both books will empower you/your daughter with college answers to apply for and win scholarships.
4) School Your Daughter
Encourage your daughter to get her core curriculum at a community college where class sizes are smaller and the cost per credit hour is almost half that of a university.
The Burden of Student Loan Debt
Saddling a young student with $20,000 to $40,000 worth of debt is a disaster waiting to happen, especially if he or she is getting a degree in an occupation such as teaching where the earning potential is limited to $30,000 to $40,000 per year.
Most students don’t comprehend the long-term consequences of borrowing a large amount of money. And if this young student graduates and marries someone who has similar amounts of student loans, it’s a recipe for stress, financial hardship, and sometimes divorce.
Help your daughter think carefully, spend wisely and count the cost. Help her get through school, maybe a little slower, but debt-free. Even if she has to work her way through college each semester, she will learn invaluable lessons about the perseverance, planning and the real cost of education. She’ll take her classes more seriously and will be more likely to truly appreciate her education and find all the college answers she is looking for.
Read more Radical, Out of the Box, Money-Saving College Ideas in this blog series
- 6 Ways High Schoolers can Crush College Costs
- How to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven
- Is There Gold at the End of the Scholarship Rainbow? Hack!
- How to Maximize FAFSA and Pell Grant Money!
- 10 Out of the Box Ideas for Big Time College Savings
- How to Eliminate College Debt
- How one kid got a college degree in 22 months for $3100 (you could too)
Be sure to read the comments at the bottom of this page – you’ll be amazed at these families and their college savings!!!!