There are several ways that you can prepare for college and the first one begins by saving money as early as possible. There are several savings accounts that offer tax benefits that parents can begin early in a child’s life. These include 529 College Savings Plans, which are available in many states. You can also invest privately, but you often do not receive a tax benefit on private savings.
It is also a necessity that you begin searching for scholarships that you can apply for as soon as possible. Many scholarships can be applied for during your junior and senior year of high school. Colleges also offer scholarships, but they frequently have very early deadlines for scholarship applications. Be certain that you prepare ahead of time to apply for those scholarships.
The FAFSA is a very important part of preparing financially for college. The FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be filed online at www.FAFSA.ed.gov. The FAFSA requires that you and your parents have your taxes prepared as early as possible. You can begin submitting your FAFSA as early as January 1st and the deadline is June 30th. Do not wait until June to file! The earlier you file, the better it is for you as aid begins to dissipate the nearer you approach the deadline. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are for receiving assistance. Also, you will be required to file a FAFSA to apply for student loans, so fill it out even if you do not think you will qualify for federal aid.
The FAFSA also determines how much your family’s expected contribution, or EFC, is. This is a very important number as it is how much your family is expected to contribute to your education. This amount is based on your tax information and annual income. It will also be a determining factor in how much you qualify to receive in federal student loans.
Although a student should avoid taking out student loans at all costs, many students will need to apply for a loan. Be certain that you understand the types of loans that are available to you from the government. These loans are better than private loans from a bank because they have better interest rates and deferral periods. You typically have six months after you graduate or go to a half-time course load before you are required to begin making payments on student loans. This is often essential because it can take you at least that amount of time, if not more, before you receive a job after graduating from college. You can learn more about the loans and grants that are available to students by visiting www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Finally, another option you have for paying for college is a work-study program. Many colleges offer summer and part-time work-study programs for students to help pay for their education. A work-study job is part of your financial aid package, and the money that you earn in that job goes towards paying your tuition and fees for college.
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