Do You Need a College Financial Aid Advisor? No - Save the Fifteen Hundred Dollars
A competent financial advisor can prepare you ahead of time and maximize your college financial aid. But do you really need one? The federal government provides a wealth of information on-line for free. The only problem is they do a lousy job telling you about it. Have you ever seen a public service announcement on TV or radio promoting student financial aid sites? No, and you probably never will.
Think before you spend. You're looking to maximize your college financial aid. The minute you walk into the office of a Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) you'll be spending some of the money you're looking to save. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you're already succumbing to the pressures of college costs - If their certified planners, are they smarter than you? No, they just have more knowledge than you, knowledge you can attain in a variety of ways.
Here are six ways to attain that knowledge:
Educate yourself - You need to spend several days becoming familiar with the college financial aid process. In order not to become overwhelmed, the federal government publishes an on-line guide called 'Funding Education Beyond High School' that is the 2010- 2011 guide to Federal Student Aid. This on-line guide can be downloaded onto your PC, laptop or even e-book reader and is a well-written guide with a table of contents that goes over every conceivable type of college financial aid including loan deferment, loan cancellations, borrower's rights, and loan consolidations. Included here is the phone number and website for all fifty state agencies that regulate college aid.
Take the same course preparations as the college financial counselors do - Information for Financial Aid Professional (IFAP) is the same federal site that all financial aid counselors use to both receive the latest federal financial aid updates and do their course training. Here are examples of what you can do here:
Computer Based Training (CBT) for Direct Loans, Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG), Federal Pell Grants (Pell Grant), National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants (National SMART Grant), and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants;
Learn about student eligibility for funds, how and when funds are dispersed, the Student Right-To-Know Act, and how to make sure a school is eligible to receive Title IV Funds (college financial aid);
Use the FSA Coach designed to help build an understanding of financial aid concepts. This is a comprehensive, introductory course containing thirty-seven lessons that show you how Federal Student Aid programs are administered;
College Financial Aid Publications - (Counselors and Mentors Handbook) - a guide similar to the Student Federal Aid Guide but used by high school guidance counselors and college aid professionals to advise them of current laws and requirements regarding the disbursement and eligibility of college aid. (EFC Formula Guide) - the guide that the federal government uses to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) that results when you complete filling out the FAFSA form for college aid eligibility.
Pell Grant Payment and Disbursement Schedules;
Explanation of how the current educational budget affects student aid; and
Live Internet webinars explaining Federal Direct College Loans.
Attend local College Information Nights - most local communities during the fall host College Aid Seminars at the local high school or even a community college. Now that you have educated yourself with the first two steps, you are ready to step out into the world and see if all that information makes sense. A question and answer session is usually available after the initial presentation and you should be prepared with some insightful questions if you've done your homework. Usually, contact information will be provided for followup questions at a later date but if not, approach the presenter and ask for a contact number. They're usually more than happy to oblige.
Request a meeting with your child's high school counselor - most parents contact with the high school college counselors is relegated to documents that must be filled out and websites providing college admission information. A request to meet with the guidance counselor will provide you with valuable information and a one on one meeting with the person responsible for submitting critical documents for your child's college admission.
Contact the college financial aid office of the university your child is applying to - a critical step that many parents do not take. Speaking to them before applying can give you good insight into how the process will proceed.
Contact FAFSA itself at 1-800-433-3243 - the phone representatives at FAFSA are there to answer any additional questions you have related to filling out the most critical form of all, the FAFSA form which is the basis all of all federal financial aid.
So let me ask, do you need a financial aid advisor?
You may have found one in yourself.
Barry Simmons is a freelance financial aid expert who sells his best selling book 'How To Send Your Child To College For Free Or Close To It' on his website (link: [http://www.collegeisfree.com] ). His site also offers quite a bit of free college resource material including his humorous blog following the first year and a half of his son's experience at college. Barry now offers 4 free bonuses with the purchase of his book that can be kept even if the book is returned.
If you have any questions regarding college financial aid, please feel free to submit those questions at Barry's Question and Answer page: [http://www.collegeisfree.com/forms/questions_page.html] or any general questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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