Starting the new year and starting the financial aid process

student at collegeThe first time I heard the number “2014″ was in the auditorium of the high school four years ago. At an information session for incoming freshman, the principal welcomed the parents of the Class of 2014. At the time, it felt like a punch – to label the date we would watch our children graduate and send them away from home. In the years since, the punch has given way to a calm reality that it is time for my son to move on and move up. Happy New Year!

January arrived along with the financial aid forms from the guidance office. Since it appears the first step is to get the FAFSA completed, I reviewed the form and am left with two concerns. First, all indicators say to get this in QUICKLY. However, we need final 2007 income numbers. I’m sure if we had two standard jobs this would be easy enough to tally. Since I am self-employed and we have a few side activities that involve income and expense, we use an accountant to handle our paperwork. Usually we have final numbers in early March. What is the consequence of waiting until then to fill this out? And the second issue is: If we estimate our income now to get the financial aid forms moving along and we are way off, how does this come back to haunt us? Is there an easy, no-penalty opportunity to alter numbers later?

Having successfully stressed myself out by reading the FAFSA form, I decided to move on to scholarship research. On the very first web page I opened, I saw a large-type link reading “FREE MONEY FOR COLLEGE” and felt better immediately. A few questions later and I was on to the database of scholarships matching my son’s life summary.

Of the 115 possible scholarships that popped up (yeah, that was fun reading) I found about 7 that show actual potential. And of those, maybe 2 – about $1,000 each – are likely for my son. (One connected to community sports, another to a cultural group.)

One thing I did not realize was these scholarships have deadlines all over the calendar. I wrongly assumed everything to do with college lands around May. Instead, we now have a few tasks for my son to be completing in the next two months in hopes of snagging these funds.

With the scholarship summaries ready to pass off to the essay writer, I came back toSimpleTuition. I am very anxious to learn what the student and parent loan options are and will be plugging in answers to secure some details as soon as we have an answer to the looming question, “What College?” As we wait to hear from two outstanding applications, our ability to really lay out the finances needed is on hold.

Now if I could just get my son to start designing a tuxedo out of duct tape to wear to the prom, we might be looking at $6,000 from the Henkel Consumer Adhesives Scholarship…

 

Financial Aid Applications