You don't have to wait for your child's senior year to start looking for information about college scholarships and grants. Aside from the emotional bearings that are required of a parent, you should also be able to cope with the financial aspect. One of the biggest financial difficulties that you might encounter is sending your children to college. The sooner you start working on finding assistance for your child's college education, the better the chances of finding aid and avoiding scams.
Determine Your EFC
EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. By having an idea earlier on about your EFC, you'll get a bird's eye view of how much you can afford and find colleges that are within your budget and price range. It will also help you identify which scholarships and grants suit your current financial situation.
You may be surprised to know how much your EFC is when you figure it out at the FAFSA website. However, keep in mind that the EFC is not the amount of how much you should actually pay for your child's college education; it is the figure that the university uses to determine how much federal money it needs, given your current financial aid package.
Complete the FAFSA paperwork
The FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your child's gateway to almost all types of college scholarships, grants, federal loans and work-study awards. The months of January and February are usually considered as the FAFSA season; you may need to get a personal identification number from the Department of Education for you and your child. Other requirements include registering your son if he is above 18 years old with the Selective Service and completing your annual tax reports.
Learn How to Sell
There are several scholarships and grants that are based on your child's merits. You need to learn how to highlight these merits and accomplishments to the award committee. When coming up with your child's portfolio or curriculum vitae, start with the most recent ones.
Priority vs Published Deadlines
There is a huge difference between a published deadline and a priority deadline. Take for example, FAFSA has this published deadline, which refers to the last day that they receive applications. However, you have to dwell on the fact that almost all the best scholarships and grants may be taken by then. Pay special attention to priority deadlines instead. Certain states also have their own FAFSA deadlines such as July 1 for Louisiana and February 15 for Connecticut.
Aside from inquiring about FAFSA's scholarships and grants, asking other parents who currently have children in college is also recommended. You can ask about how they were able to get hold of their child's current college financial aid. If you're planning to do campus visits, look for the student financial aid office in each school and find out about their campus-based grants and awards.
Again, the sooner you start working on the papers and
application for your child's college scholarship or grant, the better
your chances are of bagging the best college financial aid in town.